Love your shed: From shabby to chic

Ronseal Willow paint

My mum is an inspiration – she’s very, very resourceful and always had a knack of turning something potentially throwaway or neglected into something new and useful.

When we were replacing our falling down shed, Mum saw an opportunity. Rather than letting us just send the whole lot off to the Tidy Tip, she got my Dad to saw off the good third or so of the shed and create a “new” bijou version for her smaller garden. What was a 6′ x 4′ rotting mess became a rustic new shed complete with reused window and a new roof.

The recycled shed

The recycled ‘bijous’ shed

So when Ronseal got in touch about us trying out some of their Weatherproof Wood Paint, I immediately thought of my Mum’s little shed. When the package arrived, complete with a large tin of Willow paint, a small tin of Ash colour (as well as a host of goodies including bunting, a tin “I Garden Therefore I Am” mug and a planter), I knew we could help bring the little shabby shed to life with a lick of colour.

But you know… work, life and weather have a tendency to get in the way. When the weather was good, I was working. When I had a few days off, it drizzled. It’s been a job on my To Do List for a very, very long time.

Finally this weekend, I actually had some time off when the sun was out and the sky was gloriously blue. So we turned up with paintbrushes in hand and set about making a start on Mum’s shed.

Brushing down the shed

Brushing down the shed

First, I brushed down the shed to get rid of cobwebs and little monsters. We have a bit of a Buddhist take on nature; do no harm. So all creepy crawlies were moved on to pastures new.

Opening the tin of Ronseal

The tin needed a good shake and then it was time to get painting… finally! The colour is really lovely – it’s serene but bright and reflects a lot of light back out into the space, really helping to lift what could easily become a gloomy space under the boughs of the neighbours’ gargantuan goat willow tree.

Painting shed willow

First coat starts to go on

The Ronseal paint is also really easy to apply, nice and thick, and under the balmy late Autumn sun, it also dried very quickly. Ultimately we only had time to do two coats on the front of the shed, and will be back to finish the job, and add a flash of white across the gable to offset the green roof. But so far, so good.

two coats of Ronseal Willow paint

Two coats down and looking great! Now we just need another sunny day to finish the job…

I think it’s looking great already and really lifts that corner of the garden. Once the trellis goes back up and the pots are out the front, it really will be a case of from shabby to chic. Mum is pleased, so that’s good too!

So now we just need another non-damp day in November to get it finished and get that bunting up before winter really sets in! Watch this space…

September Soups

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I was really pleased to be contacted by Amy’s Kitchen to try out some more of their soups, as part of the Organic Soil Association’s Organic September. I’m a huge fan of soups anyway (my blog is littered with homemade, rustic soup recipes), and I already love Amy’s brown lentil soup – it’s organic, vegan and just tasty and wholesome… and best served with a chunk of crusty bread.

Organic September

Buying organic food is still much more difficult than it should be, so I’m happy to celebrate and talk about organic convenience foods. I say ‘convenience’ not as a pejorative but just as a fact… sometimes you’re busy, you’re hassled and you’re hard pushed to make something from scratch. Having the convenience of emptying a delicious serving of organic soup into the hob for lunch is easy and it’s good to know that what you’re eating is healthy, it’s organic and above it, you’re really going to enjoy it, to boot.

We were sent three varieties of Amy’s soup that I haven’t tried before – Hearty Spanish Rice and Red Bean soup, Hearty French Country Vegetable Soup and Lentil Vegetable soup. All were yummy, and despite me not being any kind of sweetcorn fan, I loved the smoky, chilli notes in the Spanish bean soup. Perfect for these chillier September days.

Amy’s soups might be a little on the pricey side here in the UK, but as a vegan I’m happy to pay the extra for some healthy and organic food that’s easy to throw on the hob at lunch, or cook in the microwave at work. I don’t have much choice when it comes to other famous soup brands, either.

I’m just waiting for my local Waitrose, Co-op or Tesco to start stocking Amy’s bean burritos! YUM!
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It’s time for tea, tea and more tea

Adagio loose leaf apple spiced chai

In the post-Christmas wind-down, Rich and I have both managed to catch the lurgie. Whilst we’re not particularly full of cold, we’re not able to control our temperatures very well (lots of being covered in blankets and clutching of hot water bottles going on), sore throats, and much fatigue. So boring. So it’s been somewhat of a relief and good timing to review some soothing, healthy teas from Adagio.

When I was contacted and asked whether I’d be interested in reviewing these loose-leaf tea blends, I jumped at the chance. 2015 is going to be a year focused on regaining my health, strength and fitness so finding a drinkable alternative to sugar-free squash is a good start. I requested for them to send over a selection of healthy teas since I’m not a black tea drinker at all (although Rich is, he could easily down six or more cups in a day).

They arrived before Christmas but we had to wait until Christmas Day for Rich to open his new swish OXO tea ball strainer, so that we could brew the loose leaf tea properly. We’ve since been sampling the various blends, including Spiced Apple Chai (my favourite so far), foxtrot (“a herbal cocktail of Egyptian chamomile, South African rooibos (with a touch of vanilla) and fresh peppermint”), Hojicha, Berry Blues (“a smooth and slightly tart blend of blueberries, apple pieces and hibiscus flowers”) as well as a whole host of loose leaf green tea blends.

Loose leaf spiced apple chai tea

The spiced apple chai loose leaf tea in the OXO good grips tea twisting ball strainer… enough for 3-4 mugs of tea

I’ve struggled in the past with pure green tea – although at one point I had “trained” myself to down a small pot within a morning at work – so for me, a green tea blend is a great way to try and stay hydrated and enjoy the various health benefits of green tea. The ball-type tea strainer we have has been really useful in helping us to achieve the strength of tea flavour that we want, and we’ve been able to share one scoops’ worth of tea in two cups easily, so there’s value for money to be had there.

I haven’t tried all of the teas yet, but I’m looking forward to taking them to work (the smaller samples come into foil fresh resealable packets) and being able to enjoy a proper cup of something calming and healthy whilst I work, rather than coming home wired and tired!