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Weekend Picks

Friday, 26 September 2014

It's been an up & downy kind of week for me, but when I saw this cloud feather in the sky one evening, I knew I was back on track!
Links for your weekend ~

: : Shoot
This is a fun project, although not all of it appeals to my vegetarian sensibilities I must admit! Documenting dinner around the world

: : Wander
I've already ticked a few of these must-see places in South America off, but there are plenty more still on my bucket list!

: : Nourish
The change in seasons is encouraging me to get making these delicious-looking Blueberry Apple Muffins. As a bonus they're also wheat, sugar & dairy-free!

: : Nest
My obsession has been fed this week by this beautiful porch.

: : Inspire
Loving these 5 ways to happy!

Enjoy the weekend, whatever you're up to.
We'll be getting started on quite a big project...


How to grow your own tomatoes when space is limited

Thursday, 25 September 2014

So I went outside into the garden on Saturday morning and found that this ...

... had suddenly become this!

This is the second year I've grown cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket and it seems to work out pretty well.

I took it up a notch this time by growing from seed, rather than buying plug plants. The hanging basket method works well for me for several reasons:

1. The plants seem less vulnerable to pests
2. If there's going to be a cold night the basket can be brought into the kitchen
3. The back wall of the house is a lovely sunny spot so the tomatoes get the warmth they need to ripen
4. They don't take up the ground space needed for full-size tomatoes in grow bags and they don't need any support stakes

In the past, I've made this tomato tart with my little harvest ~ quick to make and very delicious.

Here's what I did this time round...

Easy Tomato Ciabatta 
for a relaxed weekend lunch

Serves 2

A good handful of cherry tomatoes
2 ciabatta rolls ~ I used organic rolls from our local Blackbird Bakery
1 hand-sized ball of mozarella
Garlic paste
Olive oil
Salad leaves to garnish

1. Cut the rolls in half and spread thinly with garlic paste
2. Halve the tomatoes and place them cut side up on top of the bread
3. Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and place around the tomatoes
4. Drizzle with a little olive oil
5. Pop under the grill until the edges of the bread start to brown
6. Serve topped with a few salad leaves ~ I used some mixed salad I've been growing from seed in the kitchen this summer

This is so simple and easy, but it tastes great. I always feel really proud when I can make something from fruit or veg I've grown myself, however tiny the harvest is! I wrote about what I did with this year's apples here.

If you live in a city and grown your own food, what has been most successful for you? What do you do with your produce? I'd love to know!


Mid-week Inspiration

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Try thinking beautiful this week and see what happens!


Beekeeping in Central London

Monday, 22 September 2014

A few weeks ago I received an email from the company which manages the building where I work in central London, with an invitation to visit the Regent Street beehives.

You may or may not know that city bees are quite a thing these days and Regent Street has been maintaining hives on the rooftops of various buildings since 2009.

Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem, helping to pollinate the crops we eat. They are now at risk due to use of pesticides and climate change. Beehives are therefore an important way to keep the species going and the Regent Street project is part of an ongoing commitment to sustainable working and living in the area.

Although I'm well known amongst friends and family to be rather scared of flying insects ~ oh alright then, I'm downright petrified ~ I've always had a soft spot for bees and for some reason they don't frighten me as much. Having said that, there were a few raised eyebrows when I said what I was going to be doing!

I first became interested in bees years ago on a visit to Lambeth Country Show where a local beekeeper had some of his charges on display and was selling his own honey. For some reason it just grabbed my attention and whenever I see a hive in the countryside I always feel rather excited about all that busy activity going on inside. Plus I love honey ~ who doesn't?!

So when I got the invitation from Regent Street Direct, I knew this was a chance I couldn't miss.

First off, we needed to get togged up in our beekeeping outfits. That caused a stir when we then had to walk a block up Regent Street during a busy Friday lunchtime, I can tell you!

The suits are made from thick cotton with a hat and intergrated veil to protect your face. A lot lighter and easy to move around in than I was imagining actually! Leather elbow-length gloves protected our hands and wellies or polythene overshoes covered our feet.

When we got up to the rooftop, the first thing I noticed was that the hive seemed very quiet. When there are no people around the bees quietly go about their business, entering and leaving the hive individually. There was no cloud of bees or anything like that!

Dale, the beekeeper, set up a smoker which would be used to calm the bees as the hive was opened.

We gathered round and Dale began to dissemble the hive, explaining to us what we could see at each stage.

This hive is divided into two sections. The larger lower section is not used for honey. This is the bees' part and they'll use the honey stored there to see them through the winter. The upper section is smaller and this is where any honey is extracted from.

As we explored the internal sections of the hive, more and more bees appeared and we could see a lot more honey had been produced in that area. First the bees build the wax comb shape, then they fill it with honey. Finally they seal the top with wax. The queen also lays eggs in the honeycomb holes which develop into bee lavae.

Although we didn't see the queen, we learnt that she is about 5 years old, which is rather elderly for a bee. As a result there are only about half the usual number of bees in this hive than would normally be expected. That said, it has produced around 240 jars of honey!

This little guy decided to check me out, but other than that the bees didn't pitch on us, they just flew around feeling confused about why the hive had been opened...


The hive is inspected every week to two weeks to check how the bees are doing and to top up their sugar feed.

Before closing up the hive, Dale topped up the sugar & water syrup solution (2lb sugar to 1 pint water). Half of the bees' honey has already been removed so converting the syrup to honey will ensure that they have enough in their store to get them through the winter. The bees do visit the rooftop flowers of Regent Street, but the syrup provides a good back up for them.

I really enjoyed the visit and learnt so much about bees. It's a little ironic that the first time this Country-Londoner got to look inside a hive was in the middle of a city... Beekeeping is definitely something I would like to explore more ~ watch this space!

If you live in London, you can check here if there are hives and a beekeeper near you.

You may also be interested in the great work actress and author Carol Drinkwater is doing to help the plight of the honey bee.


Weekend Picks

Friday, 19 September 2014

We've been having a bit of an Indian Summer this last week ~ long may it last!
Here's some interesting linkage for your (hopefully sunny) weekend...

: : Shoot
Get inspired by these 25 pictures with vanishing point perspective

: : Wander
Check out this brilliant bucket list of the 16 best places in the world to watch the sun set

: : Nourish
Lately I've been thinking about getting a waffle maker ~ could these wholewheat vegan waffles be the first experiment?

: : Nest
After our weekend on the Isle of Wight I'm in full seaside obsession mode and this elegant coastal cottage is hitting the spot nicely!

: : Inspire
These tips on how to have a mindful commute are helping me in my quest to retain that holiday feeling...

Have a great weekend everyone!


2 (hours) for the price of 1 on the Isle of Wight

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Last weekend we spent a lovely couple of days on the Isle of Wight with my family. I booked Friday as holiday so we could travel down to Southampton and take the ferry before the weekend rush started.

It was my first day off work since Easter.

It wasn't long enough, but I sure needed the break.

During the trip, I started thinking about how much longer the days seem when you are out of your regular routine. It's not the first time I've felt like this on a holiday.

We arrived on the island at about 7pm on Friday and left at 2.30pm on Sunday and yet I felt I'd been there for days. A joke started that 1 'normal' hour is worth 2 on the Isle of Wight! And who doesn't love a 2 for the price of 1 deal?!

At the end of the weekend I felt calm and rested and ready for the week ahead.

You could argue that most of us get two days off a week in the form of Saturday and Sunday, but let's face it, that time is often spent catching up with ourselves after a week at work ~ washing, household admin, sleeping, the list goes on. And I'm sure that's not just me.

So how is it that time away feels so deliciously long? Is it because in shelving our regular routines we become more spontaneous, more open to doing new things and stop watching the clock so much? Or perhaps it's because when we're away from home we can't get drawn in to filling any spare moments with stuff that has been waiting to get done for ages? (clean fridge/touch up chipped paint on window/descale kettle, blah, blah, blah, I'm sure you know the drill!).

Whatever the case, I'm interesting in how I can prolong the BOGOF (buy one (hour) get one free) feeling once I'm back in my day-to-day.

Here are a few areas I plan to consider whenever I come back from time away:

Prioritise sleep
Everyone feels better after a string of decent nights. Going to bed half an hour earlier will make you more efficient the next day than if you stay up and plough through that thing you really want to get out of the way ~ I'm guilty as charged here, practically every night of the week.

Schedule chores AND rest time
I admit to being hopeless at this, inevitably ending up doing a series of housey things all day and before I know it's time to go to bed (or past time, see point above). Perhaps I'd get that stuff done more quickly if I blocked off time between to rest and do something I love? This is a toughy as we're not conditioned to 'allow' ourselves rest time ~ and I'm talking about lolling around kind of time, not charging to the gym or calling that friend you promised to get back to asap...

Usually being on holiday means getting outside and seeing different things (even when you're on a beach break), which brings perspective and, I find, wonderfully boosts creative spirit. Getting out for a 'destination-less' walk will calm your mind and help you to focus better when you get back to the things you need to do. Not to mention the health & fitness benefits...

Have some news/TV/email/social media downtime
I am also terrible at this! We've all been there ~ you sit down for a quick cup of tea and a browse of "a couple of things" online and before you know it several hours have passed. Pinterest I'm pointing a finger at you!! A break away with no Internet connection (gasp!) really puts this into perspective. Half a day or more of media switchoff at home will give you some mental breathing space.

Mindful living
In essence, all aspects of life become a pleasure and time will always be your friend if you do everything with a mindful awareness and enjoy it. Why do we make things into chores? Whoever invented the idea that ironing was work/boring/the worse thing ever? (I'm not saying it isn't, but I hope you see my point). Mindfulness is an ongoing journey and takes work, but when you make the effort the benefits are incredible.

I'm a do-er/achiever/completer-finisher type. Can't help it, I've always been like that and it's great on many levels. It's got me where I am today.

But writing this post makes me realise (again) that it's ok to stop the wheel and get off and that aiming to do this more often makes for a happier, relaxed life and better productivity in general. I'll be coming back to re-read what I've written in the next few weeks to remind myself of what I've learnt...

How do you prolong that holiday feeling?

Do you schedule time in your day to do things that you enjoy doing or are you quite good at being spontaneous?


Mid-week Inspiration

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

We spent the weekend by the sea and it really reminded me of the importance of slowing down every now and then ~ more coming on that tomorrow!