Salad Jar tutorial recipe

The Ultimate Salad Jar Tutorial

“Have you seen the amount you’ve spent on snacks this month?” I caught myself berating my hard-working husband again when looking over our account for the month.  Truth is, who could blame him? As a commuter he works long hours and several of those are spent navigating Kent trains and London tubes, leaving before the sun is up and returning in the dark- no wonder he needs to pick up snacks along the way. My full time job as a teacher at my children’s school not only means I’m often too busy or tired to make my husband lunches for the next day (And part of me wonders why  should I suppose, when I work full time too) but also, my children and I get fed very well during the week; hearty cooked lunches at midday, plus the little ones eat ‘afternoon tea’ at 4pm.  Yes, afternoon tea! When the girls and I get home during the week we often only need a bowl of porridge or a slice of toast to fulfill any enduring hunger. If we do cook during the week, it’s usually once the girls are in bed and always something light and easy – omelettes, baked potatoes, soup. These weekday suppers are nearly always vegetarian (Suits me, and even my carnivorous husband can’t be bothered to prepare, cook and clean up after a meat dish on a late Wednesday evening!) I began to worry though, that a clammy sandwich (If we’d bothered to make any the night before) and a simple supper in the evening were not enough to sustain my tall, meat-eater of a husband.  As a non-vegetarian, he clearly wouldn’t be getting the nutrients he needed to stay healthy and strong – as he wouldn’t be making the right choices for his diet in the way that a conscious vegetarian or dieter would; he’d already lost weight and so I needed a way to fill him up, with maximum nutrients and some meat to sustain him during the working week.  And that’s when I stumbled across the salad jar idea!

I can’t take any credit for this original idea – I stumbled across the first tutorial on the amazing website Organize Yourself Skinny, but a quick search on pinterest reveals a plethora of mason jar food ideas.  These salad jars enable me to make five lunches ahead of time and pack in a full spectrum of the vital food groups; vegetables, carbohydrate and protein, meaning that at the end of the week I can be sure my hard-working husband has eaten well and we’ve saved money on cafe snacks at lunchtime. Its now been two weeks since I began making these (Hubby even had a go!) and we’re so impressed with the results.  My husband tells me he eats “like a king” everyday and is the envy of the office at lunchtime.

The Ultimate Salad Jar Tutorial

I opted for 1L Kilner jars from my local budget store at £3 each, which is a fair price for these preserving jars. They have the typical metal seal and screw lids which keep everything inside really fresh and crisp.

You will need:
5 x preserving jars
500ml vinaigrette (approx)
Hearty vegetables of your choice: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers
Less hearty vegetables: mushrooms, peas, avocado, fruits
Grains: pasta, noodles, cous cous or rice (Cooked and cooled)
Protein: Meat, fish, eggs, beans (Cooked and cooled)
Greens: lettuce, spinach, watercress, light cabbage such as pak choi
Extras: such as chopped chilli and herbs to increase flavour

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First, mix up your dressings – I like to vary the flavours to make it more interesting. This week I did a honey/mustard, an oriental sesame oil/soy and a Mediterranean balsamic/olive oil dressing and paired them with chicken, prawns and tuna respectively.

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Add any ‘extras’ to your dressings and let them sit, covered. Next wash dry and chop any vegetables. I like to leave them chunky – especially the baby plum tomatoes which I leave whole. The larger the chunks of veg, the better they will keep and the more nutrients you will retain.

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Chop your meats or eggs and have your grains ready.

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Layer 1 – around 100ml of vinaigrette

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Layer 2 – Hearty vegetables
Layer 3 – Less hearty vegetables

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Layer 4 – grains

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Layer 5 – protein

IMG_3735Layer 6 – Finally, add your greens of choice.

The layering process is really significant to the longevity of your preserved salad. The vegetables at the bottom of the jar ‘pickle’ slightly by the end of the week in the dressing and act as a barrier to the grains, which in turn act as a barrier to the meat and greens, which you really don’t want sitting in any moisture. The salads will keep for at least 5 days in the fridge – we’ve not tested them after this but I’d even suggest they could be stretched to 7 days, based on the freshness on day 5. The jars are strong and will withstand a perilous commute across counties in a rucksack, although do try to keep the jar upright! To serve, tip out on to a plate where the dressing will cover the salad or, eat straight from the jar with a fork – just give it a good shake first and voila! Lunch is served!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial – let me know what you think of the salad jars and add any variations or suggestions in the comment box below.

Jaime xx

 

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How I Brought Nature Back to my Urban Garden

I am so proud to say that the birds are back! We currently have a jolly little resident robin and a pair of inquisitive blue tits, who although have yet to move in; have been exploring our homemade bird boxes and feeding in our food-draped tree for a while now. Starlings and blackbirds battle for space at the feeders and the ever-rare sparrow, perches cautiously at the fence as though mustering the courage to descend and enjoy an afternoon treat. This hasn’t been an overnight success, it’s taken around five years to get to the point where wildlife is finding us as well as us finding it. I live for nature and although my garden is a modest, postage-stamp, urban space, I have managed to create an environment where even the freest of birds are happy making their homes here and here’s how it happened.

Years 1-3

We bought our home in 2009 through a new-build home scheme. We were impressed by the sound eco-standards (Bonus – cheaper bills!) and although the outdoor space was small, it was infinitely better than our previous London dwelling where the ‘garden’ was a concrete slab by the communal bin store. Although by London standards, we felt pretty lucky even then! When we finally moved into our new home the front garden had been turfed and was bordered by a bee-friendly hedge which was good, so we turned our attention to the back garden – and goodness did it need some attention!

My eldest at aged 2, helping to weed the mud flat!

My eldest at aged 2, helping to weed the mud flat!

So we got to work improving our little slice of England and set about de-weeding the barren mud flat we had inherited. The soil quality was so bad and when we explored under the earth later on, we found tonnes of rubble and concrete left by unscrupulous builders. This in addition to a typical Kentish clay soil left us with a compacted, solid and unorganic piece of land from which we were hoping to create our very own piece of outdoor heaven. It was going to be a tough road! We began by using the neighbour’s rotivator (Tip: Beg, borrow and steal!) to turn the compacted land and then ordered a truck-load of organic soil from a local company, which helped to enrich the ground before laying turf. As a wildlife lover, I’m not a huge fan of masses of pristine lawn, but in order to create a space where our daughter could play, camp, kick a ball, it was necessary for us at the time. As you’d probably expect, our lawn has now shrunk quite considerably in order to make room for lush borders and a couple of raised vegetable beds.

A lawn to kick a ball around on.

A lawn to kick a ball around on.

The next job was planting an ornamental tree for rich spring blossoms and I went for the Cheal’s Weeping Cherry, which gives an early pink/white show of flowers in March (Usually just in time for my birthday!) before sweeping branches drip with lush dark green leaves in Summer. The leaves turn a beautiful deep red colour in Autumn before dropping in Winter and providing the ground below with a rich leaf-mould. This was no mean feat as when we began to dig the planting hole we discovered the soil depth was only about four inches – less than the depth of the spade we were using. Several telephone complaints, lots of organic matter and one determined hubby later, we finally got the tree in the ground – and going by the land it was planted in, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it’s still thriving! I had hoped that by installing a tree, its roots would help to break up the compaction that still existed under the soil. If you are doing the same in your garden – make sure you do your research and choose a tree with the appropriate final growing size! A fruiting cherry tree would have swamped our tiny garden – and house! A mistake no-less, made by our neighbours who had to hastily remove their new tree a year after planting on realising their error (Cue large sighs of relief from neighbours either side!)

The marshmallow pink of the 'Prunus Kiku Shidare blossom.

The marshmallow pink of the ‘Prunus Kiku Shidare blossom.

We then began to mark out and dig our borders and this is where the magic of time shows the most amazing results. For the the first few years I needed to build up a lush backdrop and began by planting flowering evergreen shrubs such as Choisya and Hebe and then began to experiment with wildlife-encouraging perennials. Lots of these failed of course and as an amatuer gardener I was learning along the way, but still each year some plants would come back and I was inspired by this and simply kept up a routine of filling the spaces with more flowering perennials each year, hoping to create a burst of bee-attracting colour and scent in the warmer months.

An early scabious proving endless joy for a little explorer.

An early scabious proving endless joy for a little explorer.

We began to use a compost bin to increase the nutrient content and bio-diversity of our garden and its soil and also installed a basic water butt to enable us to water our flourishing garden ecologically. It became a labour of love and soon I began to see a difference. The garden was beginning to feel like that little slice of outdoor heaven we were after.

Years 3-5

In the last two years we have expanded our borders and installed two raised vegetable beds. The small, round picnic lawn that remains is enough for us and our wide borders actually give the sense of more space, more depth. It’s funny how peering through thick green bushes at the back of borders, actually deepens this sense of space, this sense of mystery, it begs the question; ‘what’s behind there?‘ So even in the tiniest of gardens, don’t be drawn in to cutting perfectly straight, thin borders – go wild and create a deep, lush backdrop for your outside space. For really tiny gardens, bamboo canes work brilliantly for this; adding depth, height and texture, whilst taking up as little room as possible.

We built our vegetable beds from two basic raised bed kits bought for pennies from the local DIY store. Raised beds were a necessity for us as our soil was so bad, but they also help to contain your planting zone and help to structure and plan your planting. I usually operate a square-foot gardening technique rather than growing in traditional rows, and this is a great way to maximise variety in your useable space. Having them raised also brings them that bit closer to you when gardening (sore backs anyone?) and means you can easily target your soil, fertiliser and feed. I filled the first raised bed with homemade and shop bought compost and some left over top soil from when we cut our turf. The new bed was ready to use immediately and that was treat but it was also rather expensive to fill! We prepared the second bed a year before using it and in this bed we started by using as much ‘filler’ as we could, before topping with finer soil and compost. Into the void went; left over straw, some large pumpkin carcasses left over from Halloween – which had been two big for our little composter, some shredded paper, ‘rough’ compost from our own bin and some wicker strands which had come from a disintegrated old basket. It was only after the main volume had been filled that we topped this with soil and finer compost and then we covered it with tarp and left for a year, or perhaps longer, until when uncovered, a rich planting bed had been established. This way is so much cheaper than buying in a tonne of crumbly compost and is so much more friendly for the environment, increasing your own biodiversity as you do so.

Next to our vegetable beds we have a herb patch to die for, although it really does need sorting and investing in. At the moment we grow lavender, rosemary, marjoram, sage, mint and two varieties of thyme, as well as having some recent success with annuals such as dill. Moving forward, the herb patch is my next project, it needs expanding, organising and improving – any tips or inspiration from other small-garden growers? Might try barrels or pots next? Although it’s a productive patch its scruffy and the plants are definitely not at their best.

Our tree has really come into its own now and as well as solar-powered fairy lights, is strung up with all sorts of feeders for all sorts of birds. At it stands we have; peanuts, seeds, fat balls and a mealworm block. We also have two bird ‘houses’ for smaller, wild birds and of course, the seed heads left on in winter from all of my flowering plants. This ‘messy gardener’ method really works and makes you so much more time efficient! As the proverb advises with dogs, let the autumn leaves lie, and they will in turn give you a rich leaf mould to seep into your borders or to spread on your vegetable garden. As mentioned before, don’t snip and prune your summer plants at the end of their life – leave them be and their seeds will spread to double your stock next year and the birds will feast on them in the coldest of months, when abundant food is all but a sun-filled memory. Plus, hydrangea flower heads look beautiful on frosty mornings!

As well as the herb patch, I also have aspirations to grow more fruit; berries in particular and so this year I am going to try to find a spot for a burgeoning fruit cage; again if anyone has any tips for doing this on a small scale do let me know! I do have a new blackberry plant behind the veg plot now, which provides good cover for the birds and hopefully some yummy fruit this year for our jams and pies.

So, there you have it! A feast for man and beast alike in the smallest or urban gardens. I’d love a vast plot one day (wouldn’t we all!) but for now and at least the near future I have built my little slice of outdoor heaven and I hope this inspires other small-space gardens to do the same! Please share any questions, comments tips or tricks below! I’d love to hear from you.

Jaime xx

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Review: Method Bathroom Cleaner

The green, vegan and cruelty-free cleaning product I’ve been waiting for!
I usually whip up homemade cleaning sprays but sometimes find I’m less than impressed with the results in my bathrooms. Yes the end result is always a clean bathroom but my homemade sprays always seem to lack usability and sparkle. And let’s face it, even an eco-gal can do with a bit of sparkle in her home! I found this Method bathroom spray, alongside some Ecover products in my local Waitrose and I couldn’t wait to try it out on my less-than-shiny bathrooms. Especially as I’d run out of vinegar. Doh.

Packaging

The plastic bottle is made of entirely recycled material which is always one of the first things I look for. It’s also 100% recyclable and so if you wish, you can put it out with your everyday box collection if you have one. I will save the bottle to reuse. Much to my husbands disdain, I am a hoarder of pretty containers.

Usability

I must say, the bottle has a lovely shape. It’s incredibly tactile and ergonomic making it a pleasure to use. It’s refreshing to see a bottle of a different design – this one has a much wider base meaning it doesn’t topple over like the ‘skinny’ bottle typically seen in the cleaning aisle. The spray is wide spreading and fine, meaning you only overload on product of you absolutely need to. I was able to cover my large shower cubicle with only a few long sprays.

Product

The product itself has a pleasant, gentle fragrance and though not all natural as you’d expect from a store-bought spray, it is completely non-toxic, meaning it is safe to use around children and pets and kinder to the environment. I found the cleaner a little thin in terms of consistency but, that is in fact, a testament to it being empty of artificial thickeners or foaming agents, which actually don’t do anything practical anyway. With a little more elbow grease than you might use with a toxic power-foam type spray the results were excellent and left my large white tiles clean, shiny and free of water marks. Remarkably, I also wiped down the mirror in the children’s bathroom with a little spray and a damp cloth and I’ve not needed to go back at all to buff the glass, not a streak or water mark remains! Which of course makes me very happy. That reminds me! Must. Buy. More. Vinegar…

Price

I always advocate a slight premium on quality as it usually – thought not always- means the ingredients for the item have been properly sourced. At £3.00 (Price correct in Waitrose as of 27/10/14) this Method bathroom cleaner is certainly at the pricier end of the market but at a whopping 828ml it actually appears to be incredibly good value. For me this is a luxury purchase, not a necessity, and so the price works. I can’t comment how long it lasts just yet, but will happily update on that when I’m nearing the end of the bottle!

Overall rating: 5 star

Have you got a favourite ‘green’ or ethical household cleaning product? What are your secrets to homemade, natural cleaning? Share your ideas below and spread the love!

Jaime x

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Seven Steps to Sustainable Living.

Ok, so reading this won’t turn you into an off-grid permaculturalist, but I hope it will give those, still unwavering slaves to major brands, some simple steps to going a little greener. It’s easy to be green. Going green, or greener, doesn’t have to be hard work or expensive. In fact, it is often far cheaper to buy ethically, or even make your own, with many basic products. Stop! Don’t panic, I’m not asking that you go and whip up a batch of cleaning spray, but just to ‘stop and think’, with every purchase or habit – could this be done more sustainably and possibly more cheaply in another way? It’s about change and growth and new ideas; yes you’ve always used that brand of deodorant, but could you be missing out on one that is more effective and better for you? Perhaps that supermarket you shop at is draining more that just your bank balance, and although your local farm shop cannot claim to compete with these giants for quantity, it sure can on quality. Who on earth needs a billion food products wrapped in plastic anyway?!

Below is a list of seven really, really simple ways to go greener and improve not only your own health, but the health of those you love and you’ll help to save the planet while doing so!

1. Buy recycled toilet tissue.
This to me, seems a complete no-brainer, I genuinely have no idea why there is a market for luxury loo roll, but millions of Britons everyday, still feel the need to spend lots of their hard-earned pounds on quilted, patterned and frilly rolls of toilet tissue that is simply going to be flushed away seconds after use! For the same money or at times even less (depending on where you shop) you can purchase loo roll that has been made from recycled material. For all your guilt-free bottom wiping needs!

2. Visit your local farm shop or farmers market.
We have two glorious farm shops nearby; Pluckley Farm Shop which also has a fabulous range of local preserves and handmade goodies, and The 4 Seasons Farm Shop which in addition to the usual veggie-shaped wares, sells homemade gluten free cakes and even stocks coconut oil! Whilst you may not be able to – or want to – do your entire weekly shop at your local farm store, you will be surprised just how much you can purchase and it’s fun too! I regularly take my children to visit farmers markets in the local area and really enjoy meeting other like-minded families, visiting the gorgeous places they’re often held in and seeing what’s actually is season. [You will not find strawberries in February] Remember organic isn’t fancy – it’s the original way to shop and eat; our grand parents didn’t have ‘organic’ food because their shopping was intrinsically more seasonal, local and organic than it is now. They also didn’t do ‘big shops’ – they shopped locally and regularly. Plus, as my grandfather did; most families grew at least some varieties of vegetables at the bottom of the garden.

3. Walk or cycle more.
It’s a sign of the times and we are all guilty of jumping into the car for those short journeys that really could be walked or cycled. We live busy lives these days and it’s often due to time constraints that we resort to burning petrol, as we have a million and one things to get done in that half hour we have before starting work. To offset this, try spending time in your local area at the weekend or on holidays, exploring on foot or two-wheels when you do have time to roam. My children and I recently discovered a whopping great blackberry bush not far from home whilst out walking together, so we now have even more beautiful free fruit to pick, as well as saving the planet by spending our family time in this way! Result!

4. Try crafting!
It’s a simple, productive and therapeutic hobby. I save up pretty jars, lovely card fronts and ribbons from gifts I receive and turn them into beautiful hand made items for future gifts (or my own enjoyment!) At christmas I did hampers for my mother and mother-in-law, each filled with some paid-for farm shop produce and some handmade items such as chutneys and jams, inside reused jars. Many of us claim not to have time for such endeavours but I challenge you to drop a TV program (or three) each week and try it! We are all far more creative than we usually give ourselves credit for so try a new hobby, save money and help the planet while you do so!

5. Reuse and redistribute some of the waste water in your home.
This really is so easy and so valuable, especially during Summer when thirsty plants and lawns need daily watering. So much waste water is simply poured down the drain each day in the UK, but it doesn’t have to be difficult to harvest and use more of the grey water in your home. Grey-water recycling systems are wonderful and I certainly have one on my wish list but in the meantime, I keep a pretty jug out on my kitchen windowsill ready for filling and distributing waste water at any time; be it from my morning kettle, washing-up bowl or tumble dryer, it can be used to keep those plants and veg patches happy! Oh and set up a water butt outside, they’re brilliant!

6. Buy ethical brands.
Ok so not all of us have the time or inclination to make cleaning products from scratch and we all want results right? Just buy from greener companies and you can have your fix of ready-made, shop bought products but at much less of a cost to the earth as your traditional choices might be. Ecover is not without its faults, but is a great go-to-brand for easy greener cleaning, with typically much less harsh chemicals that it’s relatives on the shelves and its a company that at least has the right idea. Selecting a weekly food box from an online company such as Abel and Cole, not only gives you an organic health boost and saves time but also contributes your money to companies who are at least trying to work in a sustainable way. They even stock all your store cupboard essentials, including a growing vegetarian/vegan range and lots of the cleaning range from Ecover.

7. Save on heating.
Please don’t switch on your heating system yet!! It’s the end of August and I am already hearing people say that they’ve turned on their heating in order to stay warm. This is not ‘staying warm’. This is complete unnecessary indulgence and it’s costing you money as well as burning fuel that harms the planet. Save the heating for the depths of snowy winter and instead, for now, shut your windows, put on a jumper and keep warm by moving more; perhaps by doing your new greener hobbies or a daily yoga session. You’ll keep fitter, feel happier and sleep better. Anyway central heating is notoriously bad for your health so again, reap the benefits of choosing a more sustainable way to keep warm!

Well there you have it! Seven sustainable living ideas that are so simple you can get going right away. So go on, change your life today, give yourself a challenge and see where this new direction takes you.

Jaime x

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My Handmade Wedding

On the 27th July, 2014, I married my partner, the father of my children, best friend and soul mate. It took just over a year to plan and create our dream vintage-style wedding, which of course made use of plenty of homemade crafts, as well as specially sourced items to keep things individual and ethical. I sourced the majority of items locally (Kent and Oxfordshire) and borrowed some gorgeous pieces from friends who were still storing items from their own weddings.

Having grown up in Oxford, I had always planned on holding my wedding here. It’s where the majority of my family and friends are, as well as being the most beautiful place in its own right. For the venue itself, we chose Hawkwell House Hotel in the small conservation village of Iffley, which was able to provide us a basic package for the day and after lots of research, their’s worked out to be the most viable option for our fairly large wedding. They also have a license for outdoor ceremonies which was what I really wanted and worked out perfectly for us on the day. Having a package saved us so much time and enabled us to start from a basic point of necessity (ceremony, canapés, meal, disco etc) and then build it up from there. Our ‘afternoon tea package’ was a slight upgrade on the norm and instead of traditional canapés our guests would be treated to a proper afternoon tea with scones, cakes and sandwiches. Our package even included some flowers!  Hawkwell House and their wedding coordinator Gary, were incredibly flexible and accommodating, I would thoroughly recommend this venue to anyone considering getting married here! Gary himself, couldn’t do enough for us and even with all my ‘extra decorations’ created the most beautiful wedding for us on the day, without any practical intervention from us. It was perfect!

Our photography was done by local Kent wedding photographer, Livvy Hukins who was recommended by a friend. Upon meeting her it was instantly clear that she adored free-spirited, outdoorsy weddings as much as us and was the perfect choice for our upcoming wedding. Livvy is competitively priced and even offered a fun engagement shoot as part of our photography package. We did this at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent and although the wedding was ultimately held in Oxford, it was lovely to involve our local area in the wedding in this way.

'Pooh Sticks'

‘Pooh Sticks’

Our flowers were provided by another local company, Blooming Green. I saw this ethical company develop on a TV show several years ago and couldn’t believe my luck when it became clear they were based locally! I had saved their details then – so I couldn’t wait to contact them about my forthcoming wedding.  Blooming Green operate from a lovely rural site not far from Maidstone but handle online wedding orders with ease. Due to their organic, seasonal, completely ethical methods, colour themes need to be flexible as choice is completely dictated by the seasons, but  who wouldn’t want an array of stunning seasonal blooms? I was able to go for pastel colours for my bridal bouquet which felt like a cottage garden border in my hand.   The button holes and bridesmaids’ bouquets matched this pastel colour scheme and we opted for some stunning bold and bright colours for our thank you bouquets.  We were even able to order an extra bucket of flowers in the same pastel shades, which I used to dress the venue in addition to the flowers already provided. The commercial flower industry in the UK has a huge carbon footprint as customers desire for prescise colours and complete perfection pushes florists to import flowers from all over the world. Using a local, ethical company such as Blooming Green, enabled me to reduce the carbon footprint of my wedding and provided us with the most beautiful flowers on the day. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful flowers!

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Stunning bridal bouquets by Blooming Green.

Stunning bridal bouquets by Blooming Green.


Something Old.

When I began my planning last year, I started with my dress which I found second-hand online, after searching for a stockist. I hadn’t actually planned on doing it this way, I had been given the ‘code’ of my dream dress at my local bridal shop who had been unable to stock it for me and so when I found it online for £200 in almost my exact size, it was the perfect discovery and my first true ‘vintage’ item. I used a local dressmaker and paid around £60 for the alterations. I felt beautiful on the day.

After finding my dress, I thoroughly got the ‘second hand bug’ and after securing the afternoon tea package at the venue, began to source vintage crockery for my guests to use on the day. I pulled in a team of mums, aunts and friends to scour charity shops and jumble sales in order to collect enough duos, trios, sugar bowls, milk jugs and tea pots for around 60 guests. This ended up being so much fun and we found some gorgeous, even valuable, pieces lurking on charity shop shelves around Kent and Oxford. In fact, our final collection is so beautiful that I am considering going into business; ‘Mis-match tea service available to hire for all your vintage style occasions! ‘ [Enquiries welcome!]

A mis-matched tea service added to the vintage feel.

A mis-matched tea service added to the vintage feel.

I used second hand/vintage pieces throughout my wedding and these items thoroughly enhanced the atmosphere on the day. Here are some of the other items I bought and upcycled:

Second-hand birdcages filled with flowers became perfect table centres.

Second-hand birdcages filled with flowers became perfect table centres.

A grotty old step ladder which I bought locally for a fiver, which with the addition of some pretty vintage items and a handmade, personalised sign from Vintage Sign Boutique (who also have a brilliant ebay shop), turned into this gorgeous welcome signpost!

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A stack of truly dilapidated old suitcases, from which I created my table plan. In keeping with my slight ‘travel’ theme (each table was a different
Oxfordshire town) I used a string of luggage tags for table listings and printed an old fashioned postcard for the top table; ‘The Oxford’ (naturally) In the base of the suitcase I placed a couple of old maps and a beautiful vintage camera, which was being sold as a non-
working prop on Ebay.

      

 

 

- A huge old coal scuttle, for flowers (and now a beautiful unique umbrella stand in my home!)  

– A huge old coal scuttle, for flowers (and now a beautiful unique umbrella stand in my home!)

 

Something New:

I just love crafting and the wedding provided the perfect opportunity to go craft mad; making new items just as I wanted them.

wedding 10 I decided from the start that I wanted to make my own invitations and using a template I was able to print my      desired design onto specialist paper, found in my local craft shop Cross’s in Ashford. I bought matching envelopes  and tied the cards together with pretty organza ribbon to create the finished invite. Our gift request was a simple  rhyme which I printed onto labels and stuck onto luggage tags which were tied onto each finished invitation. photo 1

I created this gorgeous bunting using a stack of floral off-cuts bought online and used it for the ceremony and in the wedding breakfast room. (Tutorial to follow – be sure to subscribe!)

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I used a pile of leftover paper doilies to create these lovely paper lanterns (Tutorial coming soon – be sure to follow the blog!) which Gary, our wedding coordinator stung up high in the trees outside for us. These added such a magical touch to the outside ceremony.

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I also made the favours, which doubled up as place holders; by upcycling single (missing their sets) or slightly cracked teacups into scented candles for all my female guests and, using organza bags, into cute sweetie holders for the the men and the children. Making the candles was so therapeutic and it was really fun making something so individual for all my friends. Thank you Helen for sharing your gorgeous kitchen with me in order to make the first batch! I thoroughly recommend candle-making with friends (and wine!) for a fun Friday evening! Look out for the tutorial coming soon on Green Dreams and Yoga!

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Where the items couldn’t be sourced second hand, made from scratch, or we simply ran out of time (it happens!) the local high street and online shopping sites really came into their own. We bought the flower girls’ dresses from Debenhams during the sale, using some gift cards we had saved and my beautiful mis-match bridesmaid dresses were each sourced separately from Ebay, Marks and Spencer, New Look and House of Fraser. The girls bought or used their own shoes which saved lots of time and only added to the mis-matched occasion!

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These beautiful handmade garlands were purchased online from Blooming Loopy, and were made to fit using measurements given when ordering. Our girls looked stunning on the day and the beautiful flower garlands were robust enough for even the roughest of play!

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Another floral treat was our beautiful bio-degradeable confetti; grown, produced and delivered by Shropshire Petals, as featured recently on BBC 1’s Countryfile!  Our guests loved the confetti cones and had great fun creating a beautiful shower of eco-friendly petals, as we returned up the aisle!

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For a bit of fun, we ordered this tongue-in cheek newspaper article, which was personalised online. My  bridesmaids  provided further guest entertainment with a sweepstake which raised money for Kent base  children’s charity;  Abbie’s Army and a fun card game, featuring fun questions and words of wisdom which has  become an amazing  keepsake for us.

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Something borrowed.

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Although much of my items were bought second-hand or handmade, this beautiful vintage style postbox; available to hire from Corbett Creations in Maidstone, was the perfect addition to my vintage wedding, especially considering my travel theme. Lots of my guests commented on how beautiful this was and it doubled up as a super secure way to store our gifts, especially as gifts were largely monetary.

We borrowed 200m of beautiful bunting from a very dear friend, who had handmade it herself for her own outdoor wedding. Remarkably, it was the perfect length and dressed the wedding breakfast room, perfectly. Having a very loose colour theme helped the lilac-themed bunting to blend in.  We also borrowed some beautiful storm lanterns
from the aforementioned friend, which looked gorgeous alight during the ceremony.

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Our dapper groom and his men were dressed in hired attire from Moss Bros, who stocked the perfect colours to complement the sage green in our loose colour theme.

 

Something blue(sy!)

Ok, so I have shamelessly tried to link this last subtitle to the music and I apologise in advance for the rather tenuous play on words. It does reveal a direction for this last section however and due to the bluesy introduction I am goin to begin at the end (so to speak) and discuss my music in descending order, from disco to ceremony.

As the not-so subtle subtitle suggests we love our blues in all of it’s varying forms from good old Motown to modern R’n’B, our evening party was a disco even 1970s Jackson would be proud of. Our DJs were Dasher and Wazzy, who I am lucky enough to call uncles and am incredibly grateful for their musical gift which they provided on our wedding day. Our guests danced ’til midnight and the party finished off the day perfectly.

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For the wedding breakfast itself, we chose to play a gorgeous compilation album of jazz and blues. This complemented the most formal part of the day perfectly and we had so many positive comments about the dinner music. The nostalgia of this time-gone-by music was thoroughly appreciated by the older generations at our wedding but also added to the atmosphere of the vintage style setting.

Lastly, and perhaps our most lavish and favourite treat was the beautiful string quartet D’aryani, that played during the ceremony and afternoon tea. For around £700 our guests were accompanied from arrival at 12:30 right up to 4:30 when we began to move inside for the meal. We were in awe of this beautiful string group and I will treasure their music always; walking down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon in D, played by a string quartet on the lawn was a dream come true. The icing on the cake was a spontaneous round of applause as the group left to travel home after their four hours of playing. From my guests and I thank you again D’aryani!

 

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Additional credits go to:

My beautiful maid of honour and beauty blog queen, Amy Bambrick of Amy Loves fame, for taking control of my make up and beauty regime!

Family friend and talented hair stylist, Lorraine Ludbrook of Oxford, for turning the entire bridal party into vintage goddesses!

‘Mullions’ – The beautiful house we rented for our wedding week.  Thank you for allowing us to share your wonderful family home.

Summary and tips!

  • Buying clothing second hand can save a fortune and even add an air of authenticity to a vintage/handmade affair. Using a local dressmaker to alter your vintage dress is usually cheaper than going through a bridal shop and a great way to contribute to the local economy.
  • Vintage items collected, handmade or bought at jumble sales can either be resold (perhaps even for a profit if you’ve upcycled and added value!) or turned into a profitable hire business after the occasion. Be creative!
  • Beg, borrow and steal! Ok maybe not the latter, but certainly beg and borrow as much as possible when planning your big day. People are usually thrilled to be a part of the wedding and it’s amazing how many amazing items people have stored in their garages and attics!
  • Make it personal! Sites such as notonthehighstreet.com and etsy, advertise individual designers who offer beautiful, often handmade pieces, of which some can even be personalised for that individual quality.
  • When buying new be clever! Plan to shop during sales and save up unused/birthday/refund vouchers. Even supermarkets stock beautiful items these days, so use points systems to your advantage and save or make money along the way.
  • There are a growing number of ethical, organic, local and fair trade companies in the UK, which can provide beautiful guilt-free items for your wedding. So from flowers to food – shop with care and contact your local, green, small retailers for a more sustainable wedding.
  • On average, getting your stationary designed and printed by a specialist company costs around £600-800! For something that will ultimately end up in the recycling bin. Save a huge amount of money and get a more personal result by making your own!
  • Enjoy and savour every moment! There was one piece of advice that I was given again and again by friends, colleagues and family and that was to ‘take time out during the day to savour the moment’ I wholeheartedly agree!

If you’re getting married soon, good luck and I hope you enjoy the preparations as much as I did! I shall be posting some tutorials soon, of some of the makes featured in this post so be sure to click follow and stay up to date!

Jaime x

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Springtime – Best in Show

It’s mid-spring and I couldn’t be happier! The cold of the winter is melting away and summer is on our doorsteps, but spring is more than just a quiet pre-cursor to the heat of summer; it’s glorious in its own blooming right.

I love getting into the garden at this time of year; the soil is still moist from April showers and beginning to warm, ready to receive precious seedlings full of promise. That’s the great thing about Spring; new growth, new life, new beginnings.

In mid-spring, as it is now, the beautiful pinks and whites of blossom; once stark and bright against the cold bark of empty trees, is fading; sliding away like sweeping theatre curtains – revealing the lush, green leaves that had formed in its show-stopping shadow. That’s spring.

I saw a newt today in the garden. It scuttled past my gloved fingers in a flash of green-brown camouflage, as I weeded the veg patch before scurrying quickly away into hiding. I don’t have a pond but it certainly inspired a thought that I might find space! Although my burgeoning veg patch has already eaten a large portion of my already postage-stamp sized garden. Perhaps not then. But I’m so pleased it had the notion to visit, I have a compost bin not too far from the spot where I knelt with those gloved hands and so I am sure it soon found it’s lunchtime fill.

While hot on the zig-zagging tail of my watery guest, I spotted another seasonal treat – a large, lolling, bumblebee feasting away on my spring-flowering perennials and shrub border. I watched entranced as it devoured its sweet treat and then bobbed along to do the same at the next natural take-out. Bees are just so precious and I’m so pleased that this one stayed long enough for an impromptu photo shoot. Sorry I couldn’t catch the newt.

It’s these small moments in life that at times, we’re all too busy to savour. I’m so pleased I was present in that glorious spring moment today.

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Coconut Oil – the Hair Miracle?

Having a mixed ethnic origin has meant that I’ve always had tricky, changeable hair. From jet black and poker straight to light-brown, fine and wavy, my hair has morphed into many versions of itself over the years, but settled after adolescence into a fine, slightly wavy form that until I had my second daughter, seemed to have stuck.

Since then, my hair has begun to change slightly; to my horror I have been finding more and more coarse, rough and spiky strands of hair which are quite different to the rest. They are thick, untameable and unsightly and as well as straightening and blow drying to within an inch if my poor hair’s life, I have recently been pulling them out. In fact, this has become a bit of a bad habit and it occurred to me recently that I should probably seek another way of dealing with them. Everything I was doing so far had only added to the stress that it seemed my hair was reacting to and if I was careful, I would end up with a bald spot.

I have dabbled in natural hair care over the years, even soapnut liquid for a while, but haven’t found any method or product that I am completed enamoured with, though I probably haven’t given any method a fair try.
I read a blog post recently on Mind Body Green about bicarbonate of soda for hair washing and it got me thinking about natural hair care again. I have lots of my current shampooing products left so I haven’t tried the bicarbonate of soda method yet (more on that next time!) While I wait for those to run out I wanted something natural to try, something to add to my hair to beat the frizz and nourish it from root to tip; I wanted coconut oil.

I have recently been using coconut oil on my face as a makeup remover and also on my lips as a soothing balm. One morning after towel drying my hair I rubbed some coconut oil through the ends of hair, left it damp and went out for the day. An hour later my hair had dried and was soft, wavy, smooth and completely frizz free. It felt like an actual miracle! Up until now I had never once left my hair damp and gone out for the day – this was a huge test and I am so glad I did. It is such a treat to not have to blow dry my hair everyday and I am now able to embrace my natural hair which as a busy mum is also incredibly practical.

My next trial will be the bicarbonate of soda method, I will post results here soon.

So go on give coconut oil a try! You need to buy unrefined, raw, virgin, coconut oil and it will say this on the jar – if it doesn’t then it isn’t!

Share your results below!

Jaime x

Image credit: Lucybee.co

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Stop! Drop the bleach!

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Image credit: http://ec.europa.eu

If you follow my blog you’ll already know about my love for natural cleaners but a recent guilty admission from a ‘natural’ buddy (your secret’s safe with me!) inspired the writing of this post.

We are bombarded daily with ads about the latest cleaning wonder-product and how like a tsunami, it kills everything in its wake. “Kills 99.9% of bacteria” they lament. We are scare-mongered into panic-buying gimmicky products without actually knowing the ingredients – or the dangers.

Sounds strong written like this doesn’t it? But their sales pitch works every time. We are consistently persuaded that we need to buy these extraordinarily expensive chemical-laden liquids so that we can cleanse our home of all it’s bacteria. We wouldn’t be responsible if we didn’t right?

Wrong. “Danger! Death! Kill!” Might be their buzz-words, but it’s not actually the small amount of bacteria we’re hurting most. In fact, these words ring true every time you pour that toxic cleaner into your toilet bowl or around your sink. Be less concerned about those few minor seconds that the chemicals are on the ceramics in your bathroom and care more about where that liquid goes next – straight into the natural water cycle where it does exactly what it says on the tin; kills everything in its wake.

If slowly poisoning and permanently damaging the natural eco-system doesn’t grab you, then consider the trace remains and air-born particles of these ‘killer-chemicals’ left behind in your home. Each year studies tell us that breathing and skin conditions such as asthma and excema are on the rise. Children are being raised in completely sterile environments, where even the good bacteria (that we really do need!) cannot survive. This not only affects immediate health but also inhibits the development of a strong immune system to fight future infections; if and when they are ever given the chance of everyday, natural exposure to germs.

A friend of mine who uses bleach liberally around the home, recently told me that she sometimes gets ‘dizzy spells’ from inhaling too much of the stuff. Do you need anymore persuading?!

Go natural, even homemade and you will save your money, your health and a burgeoning guilty conscience.

So what can we do?

As well as commercial brands such as Ecover; who make everything from toilet bowl cleaner to laundry liquid, there are a huge amount of options for natural, safe and effective homemade cleaners to use in the home. But you need to do a little shopping first!

6 Must-Haves:
White vinegar – cuts grease, de-scales, cleans mildew, shines glass and chrome.
Lemon – a strong food-acid, cuts grease, cleans.
Bicarbonate of soda – cleans, deodorises, softens water, scrubs.
A bag of soap-nuts
Castille soap – a natural non-toxic liquid soap.
Essential oils – lemon (hides smells, cuts grease), lavender (anti-bacterial) peppermint (anti-mice) and tea-tree (anti-bacterial) are a good base stock)

These basics will get you started and easily enable you to make my multi-purpose cleaner below but do explore other natural ingredients you can use in your cleaning recipes, there are some great blogs here and here with hundreds of recipes to keep you busy. And don’t forget to visit my previous post about the power of soapnuts which cater for all your laundry needs! You can buy them here as well as lots of ready-made beautiful natural goodies and products.

A simple multi-purpose cleaner

You will need:
2 cups white vinegar
Water
About 20 drops of your desired essential oil(s)
An old spray bottle

Using a funnel or jug, add the vinegar to your clean container, then top up with tap water. Voila!

Tips: This mild cleaner is great for everything! Wiping around sinks, tables, chrome/glass fittings, greasy stains, floors and even the toilet! I use lavender and tea-tree oil in the bathroom spray and citrus and peppermint in the kitchen. For really tough stains, use a sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda as a pre-scrub.

You can make a similar multi-purpose cleaner using just strained-soap nut liquid and adding your essential oils as above. As soap-nuts do spoil, this one will need to be kept in the fridge and used within a couple of weeks.

Invest in a couple of micro-fibre cloths which give you the power of cleaning with just water. Always wash and reuse.

I hope you’re converted enough to at least switch to a kinder branded cleaner. I would love to hear the results of any homemade cleaners!

Share your recipes and results below 🙂

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Go Green From the Inside out

Another reblog! I have been away this weekend minus my lovely new juicer and have really missed my fave green juice! I’ve just been out and bought lots of green goodies and can’t wait for a big healthy kick start tomorrow!

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Finding you: The Cyclical Nature of the Kindred Spirit

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We were always this way. I as me and you as you. And if you’re yet to return, you will get there eventually. I hope to make sense of this statement by telling you an anecdote which relates to the cyclical nature of my own kindred spirit.

I remember a moment, a small moment, a long time ago now in my childhood; I was around ten, I think. It was a Sunday afternoon and in the soft haze of the evening sunlight I plucked at the pages of my father’s casually discarded tabloid newspaper and stumbled upon a small tragic story, a few pages in. The article wrote of a young girl; a young adult, who had been kidnapped and killed at the hands of her family due to the defying of rules imposed by her religion and culture. I cannot remember the specifics of the article and nor do I want to delve into the morality of it now but I just remember this feeling of panic staying with me. I believe this was my first real experience of the aforementioned ‘cruel’ world and as a sensitive, naive soul, it shocked me to the core. Not that I had been wrapped in cotton wool or had had the perfect upbringing; far from it. But the walls of my so far wobbly but softly padded family fort came tumbling down. Here I was, being initiated into the darkness of human nature and of human failure and perhaps most poignantly; of human plight.

What was most upsetting at the time however, was the reaction of the adults around me. There went I shocked and inexperienced and frightened and running with tear-stained cheeks saying “look look, how can this happen? We have to do something! Why aren’t you doing something?” Hope faded fast as my parents, naturally, comforted me by quickly casting the story away as ‘another world’s problem, of good luck on our part and of bad luck on hers’. I took this comfort but found the notion unpalatable and difficult to accept, I stepped back wounded and beaten, not knowing how to forget this poor dead girl and others like her; if that’s really what I was supposed to do. I did my best at developing my own natural sense of…what word to use? Humanity? Whatever it was inside of me, and inside of children universally, proven only when exposed to let’s say, the plight of people such as my own ‘newspaper girl’. I began to make changes, I read more news, I asked more questions, I became vegetarian; in my own twelve-year old way, much to the hilarity of my family and friends who went on to regularly ridicule the notion. “If only she knew there was meat juice in the gravy!” They would jest.

As I got older and further into society’s ready and outstretched arms, the cynic in me grew and I quickly adopted this way of life, this way of coping with our own sense of guilt and of sweeping it under the rugs of our mighty ivory towers. Slowly I let go of the vegetarianism in favour of conformity and ease and began to face the plight of far-flung others with, of course, a fleeting sadness but a good dose of ‘keep calm and carry on’. All’s good here. What could I possibly do anyway?

Now, as an adult and primary teacher I see the incredible reaction of small children to a sad story, to news of the state of our planet or the reality of extinct animal breeds and those soon on their way out. I feel the empathy, it oozes from them, they always have a clear sense of justice, of peace, of love and of care. There is never one that disagrees. Why is it that as we grow we lose that simple unwavering kindred kindness? Sometimes for only a short rebellious teenage spell, sometimes for longer. Some find it and lose it again. Some even manage to hang onto it unwavering and practice it stoically for life, in favour of mass societal conformity.

In my late twenties and after a huge shift in the path of my life I feel that I am finally within metaphorical grasp of my kindred spirit. I feel closer to my twelve year-old self now, than ever and am beginning to think that they might even agree. It’s not here fully, the cycle hasn’t fully completed its revolution but it will come. One massive element missing? Bravery. Kids are unequivocally brave. For us adults in first-world bliss, this transcends into brave and conscious choices, a lifestyle not a fad.

I believe we can all find that childhood-self again, look for it in your life and measure yourself against it.

How much of ‘you’ is driven by the society that you are immersed in? With the cyclical nature of the kindred spirit it can and will come back to you, if you want it to.

A question to ask yourself when making your next ethical decision; what would your kindred spirit do?

Thanks for reading, please do share your thoughts!

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