Homemade flapjacks.

Recipe: Coconut & Honey Flapjacks

Making homemade flapjacks is a great way of filling up family members during the busy working week and although they can be fairly sweet, making them with honey as in this recipe, adds to the nutirtional content and lessens the sugar impact.  Oats are a well-known superfood and as well as containing multiple nutrients; they are easy to digest, can help to control insulin and even lower cholestrol! With the addtion of nuts and dried fruit, homemade flapjacks really can provide a healthy, but satisfying snack.

This recipe makes around 18 small flapjacks, which you can wrap individually so they are ready to grab-and-go or leave unwrapped in a cake tin (Just hide said tin from the children as in my experience they don’t last long!)

Ingredients

200g coconut oil
200g honey (Or half honey/half maple syrup)
300g whole oats (Not ‘quick’ oats)
100g chopped nuts
100g dried fruit of your choice (Chopped if necessary)
1 tsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 165° C/gas mark 3 or 150° C (fan assisted)
  2. Grease a large rectangular baking dish or line with greaseproof paper.
  3. Heat the coconut oil and honey in a large saucepan and stir together until hot, but not boiling. Set aside.
  4. Mix the oats, nuts, cinnamon and raisins in a large bowl.

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    Chopped walnuts.

  5. Pour over the coconut oil and honey mixture and mix until well combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and distribute it evenly, pushing down firmly with the back of a spoon to create a smooth surface.

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    Use a spoon to create a smooth surface.

  7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the oats are golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely in the baking dish.
  9. Once the flapjack is cooled down lift it onto a board and cut into rectangles.

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    Leave to cool in the baking dish.

Wrap thr flapjacks individually for tasty lunchbox treats or snacks on the go! But remember – hide the tin! Please feel free to comment below with tips, questions or  suggestions.

Jaime xx

 

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Homemade Snack Sticks

Recipe: Homemade Pizza Sticks

When you’re trying to feed a busy family of four, there comes a point where you’ll need more than a handful of carrot sticks or some fruit to satisfy the hunger of your growing children and husband. We’ve recently been trying to overhaul our expenditure on food and are trying to minimize our reliance on pre-made, packaged food which is bad for the environment, highly processed and often contains obscene amounts of sugar and salt. It makes sense; the food that we are sold in big supermarkets has got to survive long-haul travel, freezer storage, shelf stacking and then the journey home from shop to cupboard – is it any wonder it’s packed full of chemicals to keep it looking and tasting good! It can be difficult to refrain from relying on shop-bought goodies, especially when you’re a busy working Mum so here’s a simple recipe for a tasty snack that’s high in carbs and low in carbon footprint. Psst, its also really really easy!

Homemade Pizza Sticks  

Ingredients:

 

1 cup self raising flour (or 1 cup plain white flour + 1 tsp baking powder)
a pinch of sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup warm water
2 tbsp tomato puree or passata
1 garlic clove, crushed
A handful of grated cheese

Method

  1. Preheat your your oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
  2. Cover a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  3. Mix together the crushed garlc and tomato puree in a small bowl and let it sit.
  4. Meanwhile, tip flour, baking powder, salt and olive oil into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the water and fold everything in until it starts to come together.
  6. Gently knead till it forms a smooth ball. Dust in a little more flour, if needed.
  7. Roll out to a basic rectangular shape, it should be fairly thin, around 1/2 cm.
  8. Spread the tomato sauce thinly over the dough and sprinkle over the grated cheese.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut around 12 strips into the rectangle with each strip around 2cm wide.
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  10. Carefully lift each strip and as you lay it down onto the baking tray, gently turn it at each end to form the twist.IMG_0529
  11. Cook for around 10-12 minutes until crisp and lightly golden.  Allow to cool completely before storing in a tin or mason jar,IMG_0530

The pizza sticks should keep for around 3 days and work great in packed lunches or for feeding hungry children efficiently after school! Please comment below with your tips, questions or suggestions regarding this recipe.IMG_0537

Jaime xx

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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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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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Upcycled bird feeder

Whilst soaking up the last of the late Spring rays this evening I was lucky enough to play host to a merry little Chiff Chaff; a small bird with an unmistakable song. It landed on a branch of my Cheals Weeping Cherry, surveyed the view and then took off again in a matter of seconds. Continue reading

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Homemade Whipped Body Butter

Recently, a friend introduced me to the wonderful world of homemade skin care products and after leaving our little craft party (yes craft party) with a pot of creamy deliciousness, needless to say I am now totally hooked. And wonderfully moisturised, naturally.

A simple, good-quality body butter will cost around £12 for 250g or so and that’s at chain-store high-street prices. This homemade butter is much more cost effective, fun to make and includes absolutely no junk, making it great for all the family (and those eco-credentials)

To make you own whipped body butter you will need:

A bain marie (or simply a large saucepan, glass bowl and lid)
A lidded container for storing the finished cream, an old jam jar is fine.
A large pyrex jug or glass bowl for mixing.
Whisk
300g solid butter i.e. cocoa, coconut or shea
100g liquid carrier oil i.e macademia or almond
1/4 tsp Vit E and/or rosehip oil (20 drops)
A few drops of your favourite essential oil

*A google search will give you some great online suppliers for the oils and butters – I usually use Aromantics and/or Naturally Thinking for mine. Remember you are buying in bulk which means you can make it at a fraction of the cost of buying and the resulting products could even be sold at craft fairs, farmers markets or given to friends and family as presents.

Heat the solid butter and carrier oil gently in a bain marie until butter has completely melted. Allow to cool slightly (enough to touch without wincing) before adding the vit E/rosehip, then gradually add a few drops of essential oil until you get the desired fragrance – no more than 14 drops in total though.

Give it all a good stir then pop in the fridge for a couple of hours until cloudy but not yet solid. Whip up until light and creamy and scrape into your desired container to keep for around 12 months.

Slather on and enjoy!

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