#reasonsforbeinghappy Week 3

Ok, so it’s not strictly week 3 but thanks to a busy start-of-term, I’m only just catching up on the blog! Anyway, labels, timekeeping and routine have never been strong points of mine! I’m here to champion the chaotic, the spontaneous and the late. Spend your time having the fun, rather than being punctual in documenting it. That’s my blogger motto anyway!

Here are my latest happy things:

1. Wildlife Walks
It’s been a gorgeous start to January here in Kent. Mornings lay heavy with grey-white mist and afternoons soon warm with low Winter sun-beams, penetrating the cold air in long, golden strands. We’ve had some lovely walks this week and have explored some new beauty spots in our local area; like Bedgebury Pinetum and our local favourite; the Ashford Community Woodland. Boots thick with mud, red noses and misty breath, all synonymous with glorious Winter walking.

2. Young Poet in the Making

My eldest daughter stood up in front of the whole school this week and impressed us all with her poem about the colours of Mexico, beautifully read and wonderfully written. I love poetry and I’m so pleased my children are also inspired to write; it’s good for the soul! Huge proud mummy moment!

3. Saving Orphaned Rhinos
On Monday, I had the pleasure of introducing a speaker from conservation charity OSCAP, at school assembly. She spoke of the imminent threat to South Africa’s wildlife, particularly the rhino, and what we could all do to help. In response to this we have begun a colouring competition at school and have also been selling beautiful rhino pins and bracelets in order to raise money for a new rhino ambulance. These ambulances are specially designed to pick up orphaned rhino calves in the wild who tend to stay close to their murdered mothers and then invariably die due to starvation/dehydration or predation. I am so pleased we can help this wonderful cause. If you would like make a donation or purchase a pin/bracelet please get in touch!

What are your #reasonsforbeinghappy this week?

Jaime xx

Shredded Sprouts and Tofu

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I love my Abel and Cole Cookbook. It’s full of wholesome, hearty recipes which work with the seasons (and therefore the ingredients in my weekly veg box!) So today, when deciding to use up a bag of organic sprouts languishing in post-Christmas asylum, this book was my go-to guide for some wintery inspiration. Now of course, the wonderful recipe writers at Abel and Cole land aren’t all vegetarian and so I am used to getting creative when not wanting to miss out on a beautiful dish, but this recipe Shredded Brussels and Bacon appeared to challenge us veggies directly:

“If you’re vegetarian and thinking about moving over to the dark side”

The blurb read arrogantly (But with a good enough dollop of tongue-in-cheek honesty, to allow me to refrain from offence) I did feel challenged though. Opening the fridge, I spotted a pack of smoked tofu that really needed using and considered if this would be enough to match the succulence of fried bacon. Perhaps not in texture but paired with the sweet maple syrup I had to hand, I thought I’d give it a go! So often with meat, it’s the sauces, flavourings and texture we in fact crave, not the taste of the plain meat itself. I also had some Indian ghee (clarified butter) to use up, and with its high smoke point (making it incredibly stable in molecular structure when cooking) it would be perfect for browning and adding much lusted-after flavour to the tofu.

Ok so here goes; a simple, healthy and seasonal vegetarian recipe inspired by Abel and Cole’s meaty one; where I switched bacon for smoked tofu, soy sauce for maple and butter for ghee. The original recipe also includes carrots, which I didn’t use – as I didn’t have, but I’d say feel free to experiment with/increase the variety of vegetables to your liking/as the season dictates.

Ingredients:
A small bag of Brussels Sprouts
A 225g packet of smoked tofu, cubed (I find that Clear Spot’s has a very good firmness)
1.5 tbsp of ghee (or a good quality oil)
A good glug of maple syrup
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped sage (optional)
Brown rice (to serve)
Vegetarian hard cheese, grated (optional)

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1. First get your rice simmering in water and then begin preparing the sprouts. You’ll need to cut a few millimetres off the bottom of each sprout (depending on size of stalk) and remove the outer leaves, before slicing in half and then shredding lengthways, with each slice around 2mm wide.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot and begin to fry the tofu cubes until golden and beginning to crisp on each side. Do this gently, but don’t allow it to stew. I find a medium-high heat, plenty of ghee, with as little stirring as possible the best method here.

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3. Add the shredded sprouts and half the chopped sage. Splash in a good glug of maple syrup, give it all a good stir and then leave it to cook for between 5 and 10 mins. After which, taste and season accordingly, adding more maple syrup if required.

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4. Serve on a mound of rice, with the sprouts having kept a slight bite and sprinkle over the rest of the sage and some vegetarian hard cheese for extra richness and flavour.

This recipe can easily be adapted for vegans, just switch the ghee for a good quality oil (one with a high smoke point like rapeseed would work well here) and omit the cheese or switch for a dusting of nutritional yeast.

I hope you enjoy this healthy, wintery treat, my children aged 7 and 3 cleared their plates and asked for more! An unequivocal Brussels Sprout result in my book!

Happy New Year!

Jaime xx

#reasonsforbeinghappy Week 2

Wow it’s late. Well actually, it’s fairly early, but it’s been long time since I’ve posted. Too long. I’m sat writing this in the midst of a three week holiday break and having just had the loveliest of Christmases. This term was my final one as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) and so the blog was put firmly on the back burner whilst I completed the last of my assessments. It’s been a busy year! As we approach New Years Eve, my #reasonsforbeinghappy this week reflect more broadly than they have before, and, look forward happily to the coming year.

Ok so here goes!

Week 2

1. A year of unbelievable highs This was the year I began my job as a fully qualified NQT. It was the year my brother came home from the US and it was the year I married my life partner and father to my children. There have been some pretty heavy lows, a true roller coaster, but 2014 will definitely be one to remember!

2. An Abundant Christmas

Food, family, fun. Not necessarily in that order but all three nonetheless. This Christmas felt special. Newly married, with my long lost brother home, felt more complete than ever. Simple time together, good collective homecooking, walks, chats, reading and sharing. Playing. A great way to end the year!

3. New Year, New Routines
I rarely commit to specific ‘new years resolutions’ as such but always try to begin the year with a general idea of where I’m headed and what I’d like to achieve. Last year was so ‘big’; marriage, committing to vegetarianism, completing my teaching program, that I feel perhaps the smaller things were swallowed up in the chaos. This year for me, I hope, will be one of reflection, presence and stillness. I have been reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and feel ready, more than ever to, as Tolle puts it; awaken to my life’s purposes. This 3rd happy point will remind me to let go of society’s (and my own) limiting expectations, approach negative aspects of life with a non-thought-based response and fully embrace the present. I also hope to bring my somewhat scatty yoga and meditation practice into a more positive daily routine, where I am aiming to eat better, rise earlier and read more.

What are your new year #reasonsforbeinghappy? Remember, being happy is our natural state, strip away the collective societal ego and look to the unwavering happiness, love and peace underneath.

Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

Jaime xx

#reasonsforbeinghappy

Week 1

Welcome to my new weekly feature! I have begun this weekly treat, to encourage us to seek out the positives in our lives and to show gratitude for the things, people and experiences we already have and value most. It carries a catchy hashtag as it’s title, which I will use to discover the happy-making events shared on twitter and the blog’s Facebook page, and will include some the best ones in the post each Sunday.

Here are mine this week:

1. A beautiful, fun, relaxing half-term week with my girls. As a busy primary school teacher I rarely get to spend quality time with my children during term time. I am however, lucky enough to work at my children’s school, so during those long busy days I at least get to snatch hugs and waves as we cross paths throughout the day. Although nothing beats being ‘mummy’ during the holidays.

2. My brother’s home! After seven long seven years away my wonderful younger sibling has now returned. It’s been really special getting the chance to catch up in the flesh and having him spend some time with his nieces. They adore their ‘Uncle Dan’ and as a wondering spirit, no matter how far away he may again go, we’ll always treasure the bond we have.

3. My amazing husband returned home with delicious chocolates on our third ‘monthiversary’ this week! We were lucky enough to have had a beautiful summer wedding in July and it still feels as though we are on that same high we felt many weeks ago. He’s a very special man, I have a feeling his name will be making regular appearances on my #reasonsforbeinghappy list.

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the globe:

@JessLMontgomery:

getting to spend some quality time with old friends this weekend #reasonsforbeinghappy

@_SugarRose_:

spending the day decorating cakes and working on marshmallow recipes- veggie option too! #reasonsforbeinghappy

Amy of Amy Loves:

#reasonsforbeinghappy – I’m surrounded by love & support, every single day which makes me very happy x

Did your #reasonsforbeinghappy appear this week? Thank you for sharing with us and spreading the joy!

From the most dazzling sunrise, the bluebells in Spring or reading bedtime stories with your children, showing gratitude; taking stock of how lucky we really are, is a one-way street to wellness, enlightenment and most of all, happiness. So tell me, what are your most precious #reasonsforbeinghappy this week? Please share your lists below, with as many reasons as you like, and spread the gratitude!

Jaime x

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

Purple Healing Juice

I love this time of year. The world around us is filled with the colours, sights and sounds of Autumn and best of all, we are reeping the rewards of the Summer’s vegetable harvest. With the change in seasons however, come some familiar battles. Our skin and hair may begin to suffer as the sunlight wanes and central heating clicks on for those chilly, misty mornings. Colds and viruses too, cling on and linger in the cool, damp air and chesty coughs can seem to last forever. I always feel tired this time of year, the heat and fun of Summer are a distant memory as we begin to wake up in the dark and plan for the coming festive season.

Diet plays a huge part in how we feel, so in addition to your hearty vitamin-packed soups, fresh local fruit and plenty of water; I’ve created a fabulous seasonal juice recipe to heal and refuel this Autumn.

Pomegranates are incredibly high in vitamin C and potassium. Pomegranate juice is also high in three different types of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidant. The three types – tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid – are present in many fruits, but fresh pomegranate juice contains particularly high amounts of all three.

As well as all the vitamins, beetroot juice has been proven to have beneficial effects on blood pressure and fitness output. So instead of your usual caffeine hit, feel energised, refuelled and refreshed with the juice of this beautiful Autumn vegetable.

As a natural anti-inflammatory, a large dose of ginger is the perfect antidote to the lingering coughs and colds of Autumn and will help to soothe the worst of the seasonal aches and pains away. I love ginger and try to drink it steeped in warm lemon water as much as possible, but here it makes an appearance in another delicious juice recipe.

You will need:
1 pomegranate
1 – 2 medium sized beets
Minimum 1/4 inch piece of Ginger
1 carrot
1 apple
A large handful of dark leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale or cavolo nero all provide excellent nutrition and a large boost of chlorophyll)

To Prepare:
1. Wash and soak your greens.
2. To open your pomegranate; cut a circle at the top of the fruit about an inch wide around the brown ‘nib’, remove this lid. Then, make five or six (depending on the size and shape of your pomegranate) cuts down each ridge on the main body of the fruit, but take care not to break the plump seed pods contained inside. Carefully remove all the seed pods and pop in the juicer. (For a clear step-by-step on preparing your pomegranate, click here, for a handy fact sheet by Waitrose.
3. Wash, top and tail your beetroot and carrot and add to the juicer.
4. Pop the soaked greens and slice of ginger into the juicer and juice, finishing with your apple to push through any remaining pieces.

Drink fresh and feel revived!

*Tip: For maximum output, I always rehydrate my leafy greens (especially if they’re pre-cut) in a bowl of cold water for around 15 mins prior to juicing.

Jaime x

Image Credit: The Jolly Beetroot

Damn Good Damson Jam

Ahh scrumptious September! It’s that time of year when the fruit of the summer sun’s labour really comes to light and hedgerows are filled with free sweet delights to see us through the onset of Autumn. Ours is unseasonably warm this year and while writing this blog the girls are at the park enjoying a warm dusk and the windows of my home are flung open wide to entice in the cooling late summer breeze.

We are luckily enough to live very close to lots of productive foraging sites; as well as the usual nettles and dandelions we are lucky to have blackberries, rose hips, and of course, damsons, just a short stroll away and we are accustomed now to bringing an array of baskets and bowls with us whenever we walk, for the acquisition of the ripest of nature’s sweets.

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Damsons are a relation of the plum, although they are much much smaller (about the size of a very large grape) and are recognisable by their beautiful dark indigo colouring, which is usually covered in a white ‘pith’ which rubs away with the oils of your hands. Damsons contain a single small stone and should have a fairly pale amber flesh. They have a very tart taste when eaten off the tree and a juice that will cut through grease and clear your palate. I just love damsons, and this damson jam recipe will bring the essence of a hazy Indian summer into your darkening mornings as Winter sets in.

This recipe makes about six jars.

Ingredients:
1kg damsons
1.25kg preserving sugar
400ml water

*De-stoning the fruit:
There are two options here and in my most recent batch I used the method detailed below, but another way to ensure a stone free jam is to cut the fruit in half and remove each stone before using them. Time consuming, but ultimately worth it!

Method:

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Put the fruit and the water into a big high-sided pan and simmer until the skins are soft and the liquid has reduced by a third. As the fruit is softening, press it against the side of the pan to release the stones and remove with a slotted spoon. (Turn the heat off if this process is taking a while – you don’t want to burn the fruit)

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Take the pan off the heat and add the sugar, stirring gently until it’s all dissolved. (It can help if you warm the sugar first, by putting it in the oven for 10 minutes)

When the sugar has dissolved, return the pan to the heat and boil it rapidly until the setting point is reached. Take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Skim off any scum that has formed, then pot up into sterilised* jars and store in a cool dark place until ready for use.

Why not tie ribbons around some of the jars and give them out as Christmas presents this year? There are some fab editable and printable labelling tools online, give it a go!

*to sterilise your jars simply wash them and put them through the dishwasher (alternatively use a microwave) on its hot setting while you’re making the jam. Spoon the mixture into the still-warm jars and seal immediately with a lid. The heat of the mixture and the jar will enable it to seal effectively and prevent any bacteria from disturbing your beautiful batch of jam.

Pondering the Point

I recently spent the night sleeping under the stars. No tent, no yurt, no canvas teepee strung up with lights. Just a friend and blankets and a balmy night. It’s the small things that change us, that open up doors and give us vision, an ability to see things we largely would have missed before. This experience is one of the things that inspired this post.

We humans are as cruel to ourselves, as we are to each other in this money and materials driven society we have built around ourselves. Like an overbearing, mass, clipped-wing our daily lives have become the zoo of the human world. We seem unable to fathom the extent of our plight, and are therefore akin to the trained animals of the circus the good ones among us may fight for; motivated by regular, insignificant treats and comforted by flat-pack shelter, packaged food and meaningless rules. We are terrified of change, of different, and of running away from the society that keeps us. We keep our eyes on her. Updating, buying, spending, judging; flitting between each empty charade like a chained-up bear, fearful of the whip.

There are many routines, rules and trends that we take part in but don’t necessarily agree with, but why do we do it? What exactly are we signing up for and why aren’t we living now? This life feels real but we spend hours of it frozen in front of meaningless television, we buy food wrapped in plastic, so disguised from its original form that we could not attempt to tell you exactly what it is that we are putting into our bodies. We visit zoos and sea life centres to teach our children about animals; they in turn become comfortable with cages and keepers for habitats. We forget we are animals too, we deny it so much we literally cleanse the natural world away; landscaping the wild, lest it remind us of our true form. Our true home. We live within concrete and plastic, keep pets but eat meat and have never spent a night sleeping unsheltered under the stars.

Strip it back, find you and change your world.

Jaime x

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

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