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July Mud + Bloom Box: A Collab With Lisa’s Notebook

If you read my July Treatbox post, you will know the lovely Lisa from Lisa’s Notebook and I have a second collaboration and this is it! I was so excited when Lisa offered to send me a Mud + Bloom box; I had seen these boxes on Lisa’s blog over the months and loved how fun and creative they were. If you haven’t read Lisa’s blog before, I encourage you to go check it out. There is really something for everyone, whether that is a gorgeous gardening post (seriously, Lisa’s garden is #gardeninggoals), a brilliant beauty or book review, or a fun family and lifestyle post. Also, Lisa’s Instagram and Twitter is always bursting with bright and beautiful flowers – it really adds a splash of colour and positivity into my day!

Thank you Lisa for sending me July’s Mud + Bloom box. Don’t forget to head over to Lisa’s Notebook to see what Lisa (and Flora) thought of this months box too!

Mud + Bloom is a monthly subscription box created by Anja (a mum of two young boys) who is passionate about finding ways children can enjoy learning more about nature, gardening and crafts. It’s aimed at children between 3 – 8 years old and each box includes everything you need for two seasonal activities: one gardening and one nature craft – along with instructions, quizzes and games aimed at teaching children about the seasons, plants, insects, birds, soil and rainfall. The activities have been created by qualified teachers and they support the national curriculum. 

When I unpacked the box, I was impressed at the amount of goodies inside, it is just like getting a surprise Christmas present. There are six colourful information cards, 2 packets of seeds, compost pellets, plant labels, glue, buttons, embroidery thread and my favourite item, washi tape! I have a slight washi tape addiction so these two are going to be a very welcome addition to my forever growing collection.

The first activity I decided to do was planting the lettuce and giant radish seeds. This year, I have actually impressed myself by keeping 4 potted plants alive in my garden (a record for me) so I was feeling a little more confident about growing my own seeds. I did have to follow the instructions carefully though as I have never done any planting before but thankfully it was all very straight forward and easy. 

Inside the kit, organic compost pellets are provided which just need to be soaked in warm water for 10 minutes to activate them. Once they have expanded I think they look like little rolled up sleeping bags which is kinda cute. All you need to do is place a seed inside it’s sleeping bag and find a small pot or egg carton so that it stands upright.

How perfect are these pots? I found them at the back of the cupboard and think they make for ideal seed sleeping bag holders. You then label your pots to avoid lettuce/radish confusion, pop them on a sunny windowsill and water regularly. When they are a couple of inches tall you remove them from the bags and plant them outside in a larger pot. It is pretty exciting to check on them to see if there are any changes.

What I particularly love about Mud + Bloom boxes is that they are so educational. Over the months, I have learned so many interesting nature facts from reading Lisa’s posts. This month I found out that a Beech tree can live to 1,000 years old and those flowers which look like giant daisies are called ox-eye daisies. Everything you need to know is on a Nature News card which explains what is happening with plants, animals, insects and birds in July.

As well as a quiz, there is also a spotters card which encourages you to go exploring and see if you can find the different leaves and trees. This is a fantastic idea and not only is it educational, it also makes nature and going for a walk fun and interactive. 

I was really keen to do the Make Your Own Summer Flower Vases craft activityFunnily enough, my mum recently gave me a couple of empty glass jars as she thought I could get creative with them, so this kit was perfect timing. Everything you need (glue, washi tape and buttons) are provided so you can get started straight away.

You get an assortment of different coloured and sized buttons to decorate your vase with.

I love that the kit encourages creativity – there are no rules, you can have a couple of washi tape bands, cover the whole vase in stripes and add buttons, beads and any other treasures you find to your vase. It’s really fun, and the fact that it’s washi means you can easily peal it off and start again if you want to experiment with a different pattern or design.

I was really impressed with this and think a simple design looks really stylish and effective. 

As well as the spotters card, the Nature paint brushes activity is another way to get outside and explore your surroundings. On a walk, you collect a selection of twigs, leaves, dried grasses and flowers. Back home, you use the embroidery thread to create home-made brushes. 

The home-made brushes help you appreciate the different shapes and textures found in nature. You can then add paint and see the different styles of artwork you can come up with using these creative natural paint brushes. 

Overall, I thought this whole box was excellent, there are so many enjoyable activities and things to learn. My favourite activity was making the summer vases and I loved the pretty washi tapes which were included in the kit. Anything which encourages children to get outside and explore nature as well as get arty and creative at home is fantastic in my opinion. A monthly Mud + Bloom box is only £7.95 + free UK shipping which is great value for money and even though it is aimed at younger children, I think it’s great for the whole family to get involved with.

Thank you again to Lisa for sending me this fun and fabulous box of goodies! Don’t forget to check out what Lisa thought of this month’s box, you can also read previous reviews for May and June

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The Nantwich Show: International Cheese Awards 2018

On Wednesday 25th July, Shaun and I made the 198 mile trek to Nantwich from Southampton to have a fun-filled cheesy day out. I was invited to the event to provide some blogging coverage of the day and despite the distance, I thought it would be too good an opportunity to turn down. Plus, I really wanted to say ‘my first blogging event was really cheesy’. Luckily for me, my dad occasionally travels to Lichfield for work, so we managed to blag ourselves a lift the majority of the way (thanks dad!) then caught the train up to Nantwich for some cheese related antics.

The Nantwich Show in Cheshire is the UK’s largest one day show with over 450 trade stands, attractions and of course tons and tons of free award winning cheese to sample. The day before The Nantwich Show is the International Cheese Awards. This is where over 5,000 cheeses from all over the world are sampled by 250 judges and a huge selection of awards are presented in various different categories.  So this event is therefore a must for any cheese lover.

7:00 in the morning, looking forward to the day ahead (pre-cheese photograph).

The day before the event, I was sent a press pass, which made me feel very important ha ha.  These were pretty cool and the main perk was being able to walk straight into the show without having to queue.

We were in the showground for about 5 minutes, before Aima Tech Electric Bikes asked to take our photograph next to one of their bikes. They encouraged me to have a go on it, but I decided against the idea due to the length of my dress (ha ha). The cheese awards is no place for knicker flashing.

Instead, here I am posing with one of their flashy bikes. I am sure they are pretty good so long as you are wearing the appropriate clothing.

Shaun wasted no time in finding his dream tractor and insisting I take a photo. (Not really, it was more like go on Shaun, do it for the blog!)

I can never resist taking a colourful flowers-in-window-box photo.

It wasn’t long before we were drawn towards the foodie stalls and in keeping with the cheese theme, we ordered ourselves a pizza. This is from Bare Bones Pizza, a modern van which is now converted into a kitchen that produces Neapolitan style wood fired pizzas. I ordered the Vegetarian (Boneless) with red onion, peppers, sliced tomato and cheese and it was ready in just under 5 minutes and tasted delicious.

After our tasty lunch, we felt re-energized and went for a walk around the showground. There was so much to see and do: there were stalls selling everything such as flowers, sweets, clothing, artwork, crafts, electric bikes, tractors and plenty of opportunities to chat to various charities, radio stations and watch interactive demos like cow milking. 

This is not a real cow although it did fool us when we first spotted it.

This is an actual cow who very kindly posed for his photograph.

It was amazing to be able to get up close to these huge cows. They were having so much attention but seemed pretty chill about the whole thing.

Funny orange sheep which looked like chicken drum sticks.

A few sheep experimenting with blue hair dye. 

The main attraction was the enormous cheese marquee which was home to an abundance of cheeses. We armed ourselves with these little cocktail sticks and set about having the best time sampling ALL THE CHEESE which came our way.

One of my favourites was the Applewood cheese, I dunno if that was because it was one of the first I sampled but it did taste lovely and I did go back for seconds.

A fantastic cheese cake (or cheesecake) by Godfrey C Williams & Sons Ltd who won gold award for this impressive creation.

A tasty looking cheeseboard from Norseland Limited

How much cheese can you fit into one cheese tent?

Each trader was very welcoming and all happy to chat about their cheeses.

I think we must have eaten about 2 blocks of cheese between us by the end. I had never eaten so much cheese in my entire life!

One of the coolest things about the day was discovering that Martin Platt from Corrie (also known as Sean Wilson) is a cheesemaker! I was so starstuck when I saw him, I blurted out (quite loudly) wow, it’s Martin Platt from Coronation Street! to which he smiled politely and said hello.

After Sean left the street he decided to fulfil his lifelong passion of cooking and went on to spend a year training as a chef, working at a number of Michelin starred restaurants. In 2009 Sean started a new venture, “The Saddleworth Cheese Company” with best friend of 30 years Mark Revell. You can read more about Sean’s award winning cheese company here.

The day was certainly full of celebrity and in the afternoon we watched James Martins live cooking demonstration where he cooked a three course meal. I told Shaun to take notes so I’m hoping for something tasty soon…

We finished the day with an ice cream before making our way back to Nantwich train station. Despite a small mishap of getting on the wrong train and nearly ending up in Manchester, we arrived back in Lichfield where my dad was kindly waiting for us to make the long journey home. Overall, it was a fabulous day in the Cheshire sunshine, eating our body weight in various delicious cheeses, celebrity spotting and learning a thing or two on the way.

Have you been to The Nantwich Show? I encourage you to make a date in your diary for the 2019 Nantwich Show and International Cheese Awards and hopefully we will return next year (so long as my dad is working up North again).

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Pastel Elixir Mystery Box

Back in April this year, I received a fabulous bundle of Pastel Elixir goodies after Ellis & James ran their tote bag kickstarter campaign to raise awareness for animal rights & ethical shopping. The prints and postcards have been brightening up my walls ever since and they always make me smile. So, when I saw Ellis tweet about Pastel Elixir Mystery Boxes I was keen to get myself one because who wouldn’t want a surprise present full of cute, colourful and creative illustrations. 

Ellis and her husband James run Pastel Elixir with their two gorgeous doggies (Vespa and Custard), in Leicestershire, selling all of Ellis’ illustrations on bookmarks, mugs, cards, badges, prints, postcards, stickers and more! Everything is so bright, fun and adorable, Ellis is amazingly talented. You can imagine I was especially excited when this awesome little package arrived through my letterbox.

Inside the mystery box: I received 5 stunning prints, 2 badges, 3 cards, a unicorn bookmark, a postcard, stickers and sweets! Click here to order your own mystery box!

So much care and attention has gone into every part of this awesome package. The box is decorated with stickers, stars and purple washi tape. Colorful confetti is sprinkled inside and Ellis writes a personalized handwritten message to say thank you, which is such a lovely touch.

As well as all the cute and colorfulness, Pastel Elixir really care about the environment and all the goodies arrived safety in a recyclable box. You can read more on Ellis’ personal blog about how they are working on reducing plastic and switching to bio-degradable packaging. 

There are two super cute bookmarks available in Pastel Elixir’s shop right now: the unicorn and llama. I absolutely love my unicorn, it’s adorable! I also received a bundle of stickers which are always good for adding a splash of colour to notebooks, journals and planners.

I mentioned in my collab with Lisa on July’s Treatbox that the badges may be the start of a new obsession. I now have two more fun badges to add to my collection. There are tons of awesome badges in Pastel Elixir’s shop – a few I have my eye on already are cat person and be kind.

I was lucky enough to receive five incredible prints in my mystery box. My favourite is the believe in yourself unicorn because it’s inspirational, motivational and unicorn. You can grab this print for yourself for just £1 right now which is amazing!

How gorgeous are the squirrel and fox prints? The colours are so bright and vibrant! There are tons of prints and postcards which are just £1 right now so why not grab yourself a beautiful bargain. 

Pastel Elixir stock a whole range of fun and fabulous greetings cards. The I llove you llama and don’t be normal cards are brilliantly cute. Also, Pastel Elixir have taken the #nakedcards pledge which means they will no longer be using cellophane bags for their greeting cards unless you request it.

Happy Unbirthday – this is such a fun card for unbirthdays!

Wow! What a huge bundle of awesomeness. Thank you Pastel Elixir for my fantastic box of treats, I absolutely love the selection of goodies! Have you ordered from Pastel Elixir? Which is your favourite print? Click here to order your very own mystery box. Make sure you check out Pastel Elixir on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Shop / Etsy and keep up with the latest colourful creations.

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Top 4 Inspirational Books: A Collab With Carrie Doran

I love how blogging is always full of surprises and one tweet can unexpectedly lead to a blog collab. Last week, I was contacted by Carrie from Life Grind, Right Mind who found me after I tweeted about getting some blog opportunities after nothing for ages and how we shouldn’t ever give up. Well, this sparked a conversation and Carrie suggested we collab together on our favourite books which have inspired us. Collaborations with other bloggers are one of my favourite things to do so I agreed straight away!

Carrie is from Las Vegas, USA and blogs about mental health and lifestyle. I love discovering new bloggers and it’s clear Carrie has a real passion for helping others feel less lonely in the world if they’re battling mental illness. Her blog reads: let’s end the stigma, let’s start a conversation, let’s talk to each other about the tough stuff until it’s not so tough anymore.  Let’s start learning and understanding. Life Grind, Right Mind is featured as one of the Top 60 Mental Health Blogs” and Carrie is continuously working hard to advocate changes that need to be made in the Mental Health community. Well done Carrie!

So here are the top 4 books which have inspired me over the years. Make sure you head over to Carrie’s blog to read her favourites too. You can also follow Carrie on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. 

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray Love was a book I read in my early twenties which only further encouraged my love for all things travel. Liz finds herself stuck in a life she doesn’t want anymore so decides to leave behind everything familiar and comforting and embark on a quest of self-discovery. She travels to Italy (and eats all the pizza and gelato), spends some time in an Ashram in India before finally heading off to Bali, the paradise island in Indonesia. I love everything about this book. It encourages us to leave our comfort zones, travel, explore and discover who we really are. I also really, really want to go to Bali. Click here to buy Eat Pray Love.

“If you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”

Wonder by R.J Palacio 

Wonder was a book which took me on a roller coaster of all the emotions. It was my holiday reading and I pretty much finished it as soon as I got off the plane. Wonder follows the story of Auggie Pullman, a normal ten year old in every way other than the fact he was born with a disorder which makes him stand out and look different. Auggie just wants a normal life and to fit in with the other kids at school but unfortunately not everyone is that accepting. The book is packed full of many lessons on kindness and how we should not judge people on appearance. If you want both the happy and sad tears, click here to buy Wonder.

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place.”

Wild by Cheryl Strayed 

I used to work as a receptionist at The Travelodge, and I read the whole of Wild on one very quiet shift over Christmas. I was searching for books similar to Eat Pray Love and Wild was the answer. Cheryl, 26, was struggling in the wake of her mothers death and failing marriage so like Liz, went on an epic journey of self-discovery. Cheryl believed she had nothing left to lose and one day packed her rucksack and set off on an eleven hundred mile trek following the Pacific Crest Trail in America. With little backpacking experience, Cheryl finds herself in difficult situations which will test her both mentally and physically. A very inspirational read which proves we can do anything if we put our mind to it. Click here to buy Wild. 

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave.”

Blogs Change Lives by Aby Moore

Last but by no means least, my most recent favourite read is Blogs Change Lives. Every single page is jammed packed full of positivity, motivation and the inspirational story of how Aby transformed her blog You Baby Me Mummy (which started as online baby book for her daughter Ava) into an awesome blogging career. The thing I love about this book the most is that Aby’s hard work and determination shines through. She believes anyone with the passion can let blogging change their life. You can read my full review here and buy yourself a copy here. 

“Success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes consistency to start making an impact on the world”

Thank you to Carrie for the spontaneous collaboration idea. I hope you have enjoyed finding out more about my favourite inspirational books. What books would be in your top 4? Make sure you head over to Carrie’s blog to read her favourites too.

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