Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Martyna Wren - An afternoon of Vintage Tea and Sultry Songs

Some days are just destined to be great aren't they?  Take Saturday for example.  An afternoon consisting of some of my favourite things - my lovely friend Becky from Bentley's Vintage; a decadent afternoon tea of delicate sandwiches; cakes and scones; gin; prosecco and the gorgeous voice of Martyna Wren.  It was bound to be an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

We pootled up to Kettering on the train - not somewhere I'd ever been before, but we were lured by the promise of an intimate gig accompanied by cake so who were we to say no?

Meandering through the frankly quite quaint streets of Kettering, with the obligatory stops in various charity shops en route, we came to Vintage Fleur, a delight of a tea shop decorated with copious amounts of floral paper lampshades and fine bone china.

Martyna was setting up, suitably attired it film star garb so we settled at our table and ordered one of the teapot cocktails.  I'm probably more used to drinking gin from teacups than I really should be, but having it poured from a teapot took it to a whole new level.

The colossal cake stand was delivered groaning under the weight of tea time treats, and we sat back and enjoyed the silky smooth voice of Martyna as she performed tracks of her album The World Can Wait.

We were actively encouraged to relax, chat and eat while the performance went on around us, and sitting there with the gentle hum of chatter, the clink of silver teaspoons and cake forks against plates with Martyna singing her sultry vintage jazz in the background was just perfect.

It felt like we were part of an exclusive private party, some kind of members club, as shoppers and workers made their way home past the window, stopping for a little nose.

Martyna Wren has been a lover of jazz ever since she was 12.  As someone who didn't follow the crowd as far as chart music was concerned, I warmed to her straight away.  Our musical tastes may have been different back then and sadly, I didn't develop the same musical talents, but I respect her for following her own path, and it's certainly paid off.  Gaining a scholarship to hone her talents, receiving accolades from within the industry and last year touring schools to speak to 6,000 children about exploring music outside of the mainstream.

I could listen to her voice all day long - in fact I treated myself to a copy of her albums so I can do exactly that.  Here's my favourite song, Al Capone's Girl.

After the music, we were invited to explore the vintage and craft booths upstairs.  Vintage Fleur is housed over 3 floors and it's a proper treasure trove of delights.  I don't need to tell you I was in my element.

I'd definitely recommend popping in to Vintage Fleur in Kettering.  You can catch Martyna Wren on the rest of her tour.  She'll be appearing at:

  • Sat 25th October - Rufflets St. Andrews - Tickets £30 2pm. Bookings 01334 462226
  • Fri 14th Nov - Bea's Of Bloomsbury £30 Champagne and Tea 7pm-9pm 0207 2428330
  • Sun 23rd November - Metro Deco, Brighton - 4.30pm - Tickets £19 - Bookings: 01273 677243

And I hear rumours she'll be back on my turf early next year performing at Woburn.  I think I might have to go again!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Samsung Showcase American Style Fridge Freezer - getting to know you

Our house is in turmoil.  In the next week or so we're having our kitchen ripped out by the short and curlies.

Granted, I have a swish and swanky and oh-so-uber-cool modern grey and steel kitchen to look forward to, but in the meantime it's a constant headache of appliance ordering, waiting in for deliveries, choosing worktops, taps, flooring, being measured, being measured again, waiting in for tradesmen...the list goes on.

I've learnt more terminology about kitchen planning than I ever wanted to know, and had my eyes opened to the endless list of sink possibilities.

Everything is packed and squirrelled away, I can't find a wooden spoon for the life of me, never mind the sandwich toaster, and I'm not looking forward to 3 weeks of takeaways (ok then, maybe a little bit).

The one thing that's keeping me sane, is our new fridge freezer.

It's arrived ahead of time, and is rather elegantly being housed in our dining room for the moment, awaiting the transformation of our tired kitchen into something more becoming for a beautiful, sleek and downright gorgeous beast of an appliance.

It arrived, via my side gate (which had to be removed from it's hinges), carried by 2 burly men using some kind of physic-defying lifting straps.  They expertly guided it in through the back door with millimetres to spare, and wheeled it into it's temporary home.

Clever wheels mean that despite it's undeniable weight and unwieldy size, it actually glides across the floor quite gracefully.

And in our dining room he currently sits.  For he has now become a 'he', elevated to a status where he has a gender and a personality.  I think he's a bit sad because he's not yet fully functioning.  He's not plumbed in at his temporary home, so can't show off his swanky filtered chilled water dispenser.  Nor can he administer crushed ice to my smoothies yet, or glorious chunky clear ice cubes for my G & T, but he can bide his time.  Perhaps he's heard from his cousin over at my parent's house that Ruby will endlessly pester him for ice in her drinks, so I think he's probably enjoying the peace right now.  I'm still figuring out if I can somehow combine it with my demi johns of wine and have chilled Pinot on tap...

Even though he's not in situ yet, I couldn't leave him alone.  A fridge freezer like the Samsung Showcase is crying out to be used.  To be filled up with the best food and drink you can possibly find.

He's itching to show off his clever double-door arrangement.  The 'showcase' door opens to reveal all your most regularly used items like milk and butter and wine (what?).  The inner door opens to reveal the main fridge in all it's all-around-cooling-glory.  I am loving the versatility of the storage, and the fact that you can use it to meet your families needs.  I can see straightaway that this is going to allow me to keep a much better handle on my food planning, allow me to see and access everything I have and I hope ultimately save me money and wasted food.  My old fridge had an entire shelf crammed full of jars of goodness knows what.  I never knew what was in there, and mostly could never be bothered to root about and look.

Here's a little video of me checking it out once the delivery men had left.  I'm still a little bit in awe of it so apologies for sounding like a love-struck teenager.

It has so many clever features, many of which I'm still discovering, and I'm sure once he's fully at home in our brand-spanking new kitchen, I'll be able to tell you even more about how in love with him I am.  But for now, I'll just stroke him adoringly.

Disclosure: I was sent the fridge freezer to review.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Gruffalo's Child comes to the forest

We had a great time exploring the Gruffalo trail earlier in the year, and it proved to be a massive hit with families up and down the country.  During spring and summer 2014, more than 10,000 children met the Gruffalo himself and hundreds of thousands followed the Gruffalo activity trails through Forestry Commission England woods and forests.

Ready for winter, The Forestry Commission have now introduced The Gruffalo's Child trails at various locations across the country.

Families across England are invited into the deep dark wood this autumn and winter to find The Gruffalo’s Child, who has followed The Gruffalo out of his comfortable cave for a forest trail adventure.
From 3 October 2014 until February 2015, self-led Gruffalo’s Child activity trails will be located in 24 Forestry Commission forests across England, continuing the nationwide celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the book’s publication.

While following the trail route, children and families can take part in activities based on their favourite book’s characters.

In addition, there will be activity packs available for £2, which will include a foraging bag, a fun-packed activity leaflet, a colouring-in sheet and a special Gruffalo's Child sticker. These special packs will encourage children to learn more about the behaviour of animals in autumn and how they search for food, create shelters and prepare for the cold winter months.
Check out the website to find your nearest trail.
There are some fabulous Gruffalo related goodies around which would make perfect Christmas gifts for any little fan.  

The Gruffalo Nature Trail book is packed with activities, fun educational facts and stickers to help enhance their understanding of wildlife.  Published by Pan MacMillan it's a great way to bring nature home and learn about the habitat of the forest, alongside the familiar story characters.

The Forestry Shop also has a range of Gruffalo items for sale, including clothing,  art and craft sets and other gift items.  Make it your first port of call if Christmas shopping for a Gruffalo fan!

Disclosure: We are official bloggers for The Forestry Commission and receive and annual Discovery Pass to visit.  We also received a copy of the nature book to review.

Friday, 10 October 2014

A Giveaway! Little Lightburners - ethical gifts and keepsakes

Let me introduce you to Little Lightburners, a beautiful online store of delightful gifts for babies and young children.

All of the products on offer are fairly made and fairly traded, and these ethics are central to the business.  Supporting artisan makers both here in the UK and overseas, Little Lightburners brings you  a huge array of beautiful keepsakes and gifts you'll be proud to give and thrilled to receive.

Owner Debbie has a passion for sourcing unique gifts, and as a mother of three understands a parent's desire to find unique and personal presents.  She's happy to offer a bespoke and personal service, adding messages to gifts or putting together hampers and baskets.

I'm delighted to team up with Debbie to offer you the chance to win a £50 gift voucher to spend at Little Lightburners.  With Christmas coming, it's the perfect time to choose some stocking fillers for a special little person, or perhaps you know someone expecting and would like to get a newborn gift?

What would you choose?  Here are some of my personal favourites from the store:

Hand knitted merino wool booties, with a Cath Kidston bib.

A pure silver textured heart on an 18″ sterling silver snake chain. Each unique charm is hand-crafted and has a soft satin finish.

A vibrant alphabet wall chart poster would make a great addition to any child’s room and is a fun way of teaching children the alphabet. 

Fairly traded Mouse Family from Barefoot. Designed by artist and colourist – Barbara Sansoni – and individually made from 100% hand-woven cotton, by talented artisans who earn a decent wage, the fibres are dyed using eco-friendly dyes and dried naturally in the Sri Lankan sunshine. The toys are stuffed with natural fibre.  Every mouse is different from their noses to their toes. The girls love dressing up in their stripy pinafore dresses with daintily hand-embroidered flowers, colourful shoes and white pants, whilst the boys always look smart in their neat shorts or trousers and shirts. 

If you'd like to win a £50 voucher to spend with Little Lightburners, then please complete the rafflecopter below.  One winner will be selected at random.  UK entrants only.  The winner will be able to an item or items up to the value of £50, no change will be given and there is no cash alternative.  This giveaway is run in conjunction with Little Lightburners who remain responsible for fulfilling the prize.

Giveaway closes at midnight on Sunday 19th October 2014. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Guidecentral - share your craft projects and get paid!

OK, listen up, there's a new kid on the block if you're looking for craft or recipe inspiration.

I know, I know, we can lose hours of our lives scrolling through these sites, favouriting and bookmarking things to come back to, but Guidecentral is a little different.

For starters, the makers actually get paid to contribute.  How often have you seen stuff re-shared on other sites and it's virtually impossible to trace it back to the original contributor?  With Guidecentral, makers own, retain and get rewarded for sharing their tutorials.

They have also just introduced another level of remuneration, meaning on top of the $7 paid for each tutorial approved, sellers receive more payment based on interaction - so if you've got a great tutorial to share and lots of people on the site love it, you're going to earn more.

Setting yourself up as a maker on Guidecentral is easy.  And when you've created your profile you can link it to your website or blog, giving your site greater exposure too.

The steps walk you through submitting your first guide.  You'll need to include good quality images of the finished item, the materials and each step, alongside your written instructions.

Once your first tutorial is approved, you then become a member of their Maker Program and can start earning.

I've submitted my first guide, and when I have some spare time I'll be going back through my archives and adding more.  Come and give me a follow!

Browsing the site for inspiration is easy too.  There's a section of featured tutorials, newly listed section, and the trending guides are handy to browse.

If you're stuck for ideas you can even browse by materials - collected some pebbles at the beach and don't know what to do with them? Browse tutorials using 'stones'. I particularly love this one:

The trending guides will highlight what's currently popular, so often it will be topical or seasonal makes.  At the moment there's lots of fabulous autumnal and Halloween inspiration.

I love that the site is so social, giving you options to follow makers and like their guides.  I'm finding it a great source of inspiration, and often have a little nosey on my phone to see what creative goodies people have made.

The app is free to download and compatible with android and iPhones, you can also view online on your desktop, so you're never far away from great creative inspiration.

If you're a crafter; baker; maker; seller or blogger, check out Guidecentral and see how it can help you.

Featured post.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A Million Miracles

I wrote a little while ago what my sight means to me

Eye health an eye issues are prevalent in our family.  Later this afternoon myself and Ruby are off to the opticians to get our regular check-up and to have digital retina photography to check on our eye health.  She is under a specialist doctor because of issues with her eye muscles.  My grandmother has recently had eye surgery, there are cataracts in our family and our uncle has been registered blind for many, many years.  So we're well aware of the importance of sight, and conscious of how lucky we are in this country to have a health service and support to look after us.

Many other people in the world are not so lucky.

Charity SightSavers are launching a new campaign called A Million Miracles to raise £30million in order to deliver 1 million cataract operations in some of the poorest parts of the world.  80% of blindness could be prevented or cured. 

The ‘Million Miracles’ launch event is an innovative, live digital storytelling event that will, via LIVE Google Hangouts from Malawi, Africa and traditional media & other social media channels, take the global audience on an emotional and inspiring journey.

You'll meet Mr Winesi who, due to bilateral cataracts, has been totally blind for two years. He has never seen his grandson Luca, and misses seeing his beautiful wife Namaleta. He can no longer work and provide for his family. In a few months their food stores will run out and they will go hungry as he is unable to work.

It needn't be this way. All it takes is a 5 minute operation that costs £30 pounds to change his life, and the lives of his family.

Join us on the 8th October at 1.30 UK time as one of the few cataract surgeons in Malawi delivers the 5 minute life-changing operation. Hosted by UK YouTuber star Doug Armstong you'll meet the Mr Winesi, and all the health worker heroes delivering this vital work. Click here at 1.30 to watch live.

Then join us on the 9th October at 1.30 UK time as we removed the bandages and Mr Winesi can see for the very first time. He will be able to see his wonderful wife, and hold and see his grandson Luca for the very first time.

Malawi has just 1 eye surgeon for every 4.25 million people and Dr Gerald, who is performing the surgery on Mr Winesi, is the only paediatric surgeon in the whole of Malawi.

Using satellite technology to broadcast live from rural Malawi this project will push the boundaries in live storytelling.

Please join us and follow Sightsavers on Twitter @Sightsavers and on Facebook and watch the live broadcast on G+.