c 2017 | Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me

Cruise Around Britain with Cunard Invergordon Scotland Port of Call

On to the second port of call Invergordon on my cruise around Great Britain, on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth. You will find that most cruise liners refer to this port as Inverness which is a distance of 24 miles away.  You can find out more about the first few days on this cruise on my previous blog posts, Edinburgh Port of Call and Cruise around Great Britain
Cruise Britain Scotland Ports of Call Cunard Review

Day 3 Invergordon
We arrived early morning and enjoyed one of the most fascinating and picturesque journeys into a port of the whole cruise. It was early 7am as we looked out from our balcony sailing up the Cromarty Firth, a deep sea inlet of more than 15 miles. We passed very close to oil rigs that have been brought into the protection of the inlet for maintenance. They were fascinating to see, along with beautiful and dramatic scenic views of the shore and beyond. It was a wonderfully sunny June day. 
cruise britain ports of call scotland Invergordon cromarty firth
Cromarty Firth dotted with oil rigs

cruise britain ports of call scotland Invergordon cromarty firth



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V The Second Generation - Book Review & Nell Makes Giveaway

V The Second Generation Book Review Sci Fi book reading challenge
Reading and Apple Crumble cupcake go so well together 
Four months into the year and I have only just closed the book on my first read of my 2017 Reading Challenge. Having been unwell I have neither had the energy or focus to read a book, flicking through a magazine was the best I could manage until recently. I picked up and read my first book of the year in April - yay! If you love the Rainbow book mark in the photo above then keep reading as I have a giveaway for you to win a handmade crochet bookmark from Nell Makes.

So, onto my first book of the year, V The Second Generation by   Kenneth Johnson.  Some of you may recall a science fiction tv mini series in the 80's called V. An alien race that look human visits earth in 50 huge mother ships asking for help and in return they will exchange medical advancements and healing the earth of the damage caused by humans. But it soon becomes apparent the visitors are more reptile than human, and are here to harvest the earth of its vital resources including humans. 

I read the book of the mini series back in the 80's along with many of the subsequent follow on books. I even have the dvd of the tv mini series. Can you tell I really enjoyed V! So when I realised Kenneth Johnson had written a sequel I was eager to find out how the fight for earth had gone. I should say that you do not have to have read the original book to enjoy this book.

V The Second Generation by Kenneth Johnson
The book is set 20 years on from when the Visitors first arrived at Earth. The fight by earths resistance army continues but they have suffered significant set backs over the years. The visitors have raped the planet of its water, oceans have been depleted travel harbours and ports around the globe are unusable. A new generation of humans know no other life than Visitors occupying earth, they work alongside them. A new species of humans and visitor children have grown up, half breads or 'dreg' they are disliked by many humans and visitors alike - but can they unite the two species together. 

There are plenty of new characters in the book and also some of the original characters both resistance and visitors that I loved to hate. Can a message sent out to space by the resistance on Earth make a difference to the fight they face 20 years later. As the saying goes 'My enemies enemy is my friend...but are they. Never one to give too much away as I would not want to ruin any book for someone. I will say yes the fight continues and you will be drawn into resistance plans to save Earth and the human race from destruction. 

This book is a great sci fi read, if you have not read the original  'V' book I recommend it you do not need to read it before the Second Generation book but you will enjoy it all the more. You will also not have to wait 20 years to read the sequel. Having finished the book I was surprised to read some of the negative reviews it received, totally uncalled for in my opinion.

I scored this book 4/5 on Goodreads.


I am just starting my next book, which has been languishing on my bookshelf for a few years. I have no idea how my reading challenge will progress this year, but I am just going to read and enjoy what books I can, when I can. 


Review & Giveaway Handmade Crocheted  Bookmark from Nell Makes
As a way of celebrating ticking the first book of the year from my Reading Challenge, I am running a giveaway. You have the chance to win a handmade crocheted bookmark of your choice from my talented friend Nell Makes

I have been using one of her colourful and cute Rainbow bookmark clips, not only in my latest read but also in my bullet journal, and whilst doing some holiday planning and research. They are just the cutest bookmarks made up of tiny crochet stitches. 

Nell Makes has created a range of beautiful crocheted bookmarks, not only the wonderful and colourful rainbow bookmark (my favourite) but also other fun designs - an owl, unicorn, watermelon (I carried a watermelon, yes are you saying that too!) and more. 

If you want to buy one or see her other designs please do visit Nell Makes Etsy page or Nell Makes Facebook page where you can also see the many other some beautiful crocheted items she makes along with felt greetings cards. 

Giveaway time! To win your choice of crocheted bookmarks from Nell Makes I have a competition running on my Garden Tea Cakes and Me Facebook page, so be sure to pop over and enter today.
Crocheted bookmark Nell Makes Etsy

You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. 

Have you read any good books of late?
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Gardening Catch Up April

So not only has it been some time since my last blog post it has been months since I shared a gardening related post. I am still, yes still, recovering from my chest infection, I am making progress however I find the unpredictability of the fatigue impossible to make any plans - so I don't! 
Robin in Apple tree

The gardening springing into life has been a delight to see, and has made my green fingers itch for the want of seed sowing! I sorted through my seed tins a few weeks ago from the comfort of the kitchen table.  I may be a little behind with my seed sowing but at least I have a planting plan.
Forget Me Nots April Garden

For the last few months my sister has been very active in the garden and has happily asked for me to add to her to do list - luckily for me.  The two raised vegetable beds have been dug out and had new compost added, ready for a bumper year of carrots, kale, beans and courgettes. The greenhouse is usually my domain, but when you need a little help, you need a little help, so my sister kindly set up all my seed trays and compost. I literally strolled from the kitchen door into the greenhouse and sowed my vegetable and flower seeds - my green fingers satisfied.  
April Garden Shropshire Greenhouse
Copper Beech Tree, Acer and greenhouse
It is a few weeks later and the Saturday of Easter weekend and I have picked up my camera and taken a stroll into the garden. There are photographs galore!   
  • The seeds in the greenhouse are mostly growing well, there are some tender plants including the sweet peas from Sarah Raven being protected from those chilly nights. 
  • The blossoms on the plum tree have vanished, the pear tree blossom is past it's best but the blossom on the apple trees is just bursting open. 
  • The Acer is now in full leaf, the Bluebells are flowering and the fronds of the ferns are unfurling. 
  • The Copper Beech tree, which dominates the bottom of the garden is a week away from being in leaf.
Gold lace Primula
Gold Lace Primula

Alpine Planter

Greenhouse April seeds

Greenhouse April seeds cosmos

Blueberry flowers
Blueberry flowers

Pear Tree Blossom
Pear Tree Blossom

Apple Tree Blossom
Plum Tree Compost bins
Plum tree & compost bins

Woodland flowers bluebells primulas

Ajuga reptans 

Fern Frond

Fern Fronds

Garden tree swing

Ladys Mantle

Clematis Pixie Sensation
Clematis Pixie Sensation 

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Gardening Tips & Inspiration 
 Fruit & Vegetable Pinterest board 
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Greeting Cards Review from Berni Parker Designs Plus Free Birthday Planner Download

I love sharing details of British companies with you my lovely readers, and what better than one based in the Midlands. Berni Parker Designs create greetings cards, and I am very fortunate to share with you some of their gorgeous designed products. But that's not all. I also have a free birthday organiser download you can print to help you organise your family birthdays - never miss another birthday, anniversary or special day! Plus I will also share an exclusive discount code for your next purchase from Berni Parker. So do read on...

stationery review greetings cards berni parker designs


A few weeks ago I received a lovely selection of greetings cards from Berni Parker Designs, along with a selection of their gifts. All the cards and stationery designs are created by the talented Bernie Parker herself, they capture fun, love and humorous moments in life, which you can identify with. It is quite likely you will be familiar with Berni Parker Designs, the cards and gifts can be found in over 700 independent outlets such as garden centres as well as National Trust shops.


Keep reading to download my free birthday Organiser/Planner.

stationery review greetings cards berni parker designs
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Greeting Cards Galore
There are 10 different card ranges, I received cards from the Ladies Who Love Life, Men Who Love Life and Animals Who Love Life ranges from Berni Parker. These captured fun and humorous moments just like in life  - I certainly identified with or associated friends with these and I have already matched these perfectly to some family members. Watch out for the animal cards, they are adorably funny. The inside is blank so you can add your own personal message or sentiment. The Whisper On Wings collection is perfect for those lovers of all things fairy related. 
stationery review greetings cards berni parker designs

Quality cards
I keep a stash of generic occasion cards. You know the type - get well, sympathy, new home, wedding, new job and congratulations. Again Berni Parker has created cards that capture these occasions perfectly. The cards and envelopes are of very good quality, and easy to write on - no shiny pen proof envelopes. Greetings cards range from £2.25. 
stationery review greetings cards berni parker designs
I know just the walker who will enjoy this card
The Welsh Factor
Living in Shropshire I am located near the Welsh border so love the fact that Berni Parker include Welsh text greeting cards in their collection too.

Stationery Love
It is not just all about greeting cards, but stationery too, and who just does not love stationery! Notepads, shopping lists, note card sets and invitations. I am a list maker and I ALWAYS have a selection of notepads and magnetic shopping lists in my cupboard. As you can see I have already started using the shopping list note pad I was sent, your list tears easily from the pad to pop into your handbag for your shopping trip. 

The gift bags match with the Ladies Who Love Life and the Whisper On Wings range - co-ordinating your gifting of presents. 

If you love your stationery keep reading to get your 10% discount from your online order with Berni Parker.
stationery review greetings cards berni parker designs
Shopping prep 
Gifts
Supporting the well designed greetings cards are a great selection of gifts aimed at us females. Perfect pressies that easily pop into a birthday card and make the perfect token gift - bookmark, handbag mirror, notepad or wine glasses. 
  • I have a thing for bookmarks at the moment, and love this quirky magnetic bookmark - I have not seen one like this before. They come in a fun feminine designs and are just £1.99, what a bargain. 
  • Handbag mirror, who would not welcome one or more of these as a present. I not only have one in my handbag but also my toiletry bag - very useful for holidays or unexpected hospital admissions. Am I the only one who finds went out with friends someone will at some point ask. Does anyone have a mirror? There are several designs but my favourite is the Mirror, Mirror on the Wall just £3.49 and presented on a printed card matching the mirror design, wrapped in cellophane.  
stationery review greetings cards berni parker designs
Perfect gifts - Handbag Mirror, Bookmark  and Notepad

About Berni Parker


A family run company based in Worcestershire, not only do they create illustrated greetings cards but also stationery and gift ware  - all from original art work. Berni Parker has over 20 years experience in the greetings cards industry before launching her own company based in her home studio in the middle of the English countryside (what an idyllic workplace), in Worcestershire.  The business as it has grown is now a family affair, with her husband and sons actively involved.

Get 10% Discount Online Order
Place an order online at Berni Parker before 1 May and use Code BLOG10 to claim 10% off your order. Get organised today, why not download my birthday organiser and batch order your greetings cards from Berni Parker.

Birthday Planner Organiser Printable Free Download organizer

I am from a family of organisers, we all have our way of organising and remembering birthday, anniversaries. I have mine recorded on an annual birthday planner - no need to update your diary every year. So I wanted to share this handy Birthday Planner with you, and help you keep all those important dates in one place.


Click to download and print my free 
birthday planner(print it double sided
 to keep it on one sheet)

Grab a cuppa and spend half an hour completing 
all your birthdays and anniversaries 
on to one form

Pin onto a noticeboard - or fold 
and keep in your notebook/diary

Batch shop for your greeting cards

birthday planner printable birthday organiser organizer free

Disclosure: I was sent a selection of greeting cards and gifts for the purpose of this review.
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Recuperation, Birds, Crochet and Garden Planning

nhs prh hospital Shropshire
Would you believe it, this blog post has been three weeks in the making. I was in the process of putting together an update on how I was taking things easy recovering from my recent hospital admission for a chest infection picked up mid/late January. All of which was complicated by my scoliosis (curvature of the spine), I was occupying myself with some crochet and tv - ridiculous really but that was my limit. The days flipped between tiredness, recovery, tiredness, recovery. Then two weeks home and the recovery element ebbed away to total tiredness and breathing problems again - and so it was I found myself back in hospital, this time just for a week. 

But that was a week ago and I am home again and with each day I am feeling a little better, and hoping not to tempt fate with those words. I am focusing on some positives - what you can enjoy whilst trying to do nothing and appreciate the little things in life.

Nature on my doorstep
I may have totally missed the wonderful display of Snowdrops in the nearby parks and gardens but I have been able to enjoy the sight of the birds in my garden. They have been very active searching out nests. The day I came out of hospital I was greeted by a pair of Blackcaps on the bird feeder, birds not seen in the garden for a few years. But the Robins, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Wrens are still my favourites. From the comfort and warmth of my garden room I have been able to capture some lovely photographs of the birds, the little Wrens are very timid though and require a little more patience than I can give at the moment.
Blue Tit nesting
Blue Tit on the garage roof
Restorative Power of Cake
I can happily enjoy the benefits of eating cake, even though I am not able to bake it which I equally enjoy. A delicious slice of my favourite piece of cake contains many restorative powers, I am sure no one is going to disagree with me on that!
Search Press Crochet Books

A Little Good Luck and a Win
I received this lovely book of 200 Fun Things to Crochet whilst in hospital, won in a giveaway on the Search Press Art and Craft Books Facebook page. If you are UK based they have giveaways on a Wednesday and on free books for review on a Friday, which is how I won.  It was a lovely surprise as I had forgotten all about it. Now as you can see I have picked up my crochet hook this week and created some pretty flowers. Not without faults, I made one or two small mistakes something I will learn from. But the book is full of lots of creative small projects for varying skill levels. A book I will not be easily parted with, read my review or find out more about 200 Fun Things to Crochet
Family and Friends
Never to be underestimated or taken for granted, it is during times of illness that you truly appreciate the support and care shown by family and friends. From my sister who has basically been doing just about everything for me during the last month, to those who call by or send kind thoughts. It is all so very much appreciated and I hope that soon I will be able to somehow repay that kindness.  To my lovely blogging friends, particularly my Instagram followers it has been a real pick me up to read your lovely messages of support. I hope soon to be up to sharing more photos with you soon.

Armchair Gardening
With the garden bursting into life before my eyes, pots planted with bulbs in Autumn have started to grow and are close to flowering. I have a greenhouse that is calling out to me... I long to be seed sowing. But in the meanwhile I can be doing some garden planning, such as looking through seed catalogues. This year the Sarah Raven catalogue has been a favourite, since I completed my online FlowerStart flower arranging course last year its my wish to grow more cut flowers grown in the garden.  I have ordered a selection seeds including the Opal Sweet Pea mix - oh how I love growing and enjoy picking Sweet Peas.  Currently you can get an extra 10% of any orders from Sarah Raven using the code SRKGSP17.  I can recommend the Inspire Me section of the website if you are looking for some inspiration or need to narrow down or increase :) your choices for your garden this year.
Great Tit perched in pruned apple tree
Great Tit perched on the Apple Tree
Meanwhile I will leave you with these words of wisdom...
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.
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Cruise Around Britain - Edinburgh Port of Call

Our very first port of call on our Cunard Cruise around Britain was Edinburgh. Anchored off Newhaven port this would be a tender stop. I had decided not to get off the ship but to stay on board and spend the day with my mum, who did not want to take the tender ashore.  My sister and dad were taking an organised excursion to visit the amazing engineering feat of the Falkirk Wheel.
Cunard Cruise around Britain Edinburgh port of call
The ships tenders docked in the calm of Newhaven harbour 
Staying onboard
From on board the ship we had excellent views of the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat. We were also treated to a performance on board from two Scottish pipers in full costume, they gave an excellent performance in the foyer area of the ship. As you can see from the photos below my mum and I had found an excellent spot.
Cunard Cruise around Britain Edinburgh port of call


Cunard Cruise around Britain Edinburgh port of call


Although we had explored the ship on our first full day at sea the previous day, it was nice to just stroll around at our leisure. Many people had taken the opportunity to visit Edinburgh so it there were fewer people on board, not that it ever felt busy with people.



Excursion Falkirk Wheel cruse ship cunard cruise around Britain
Falkirk Wheel excursion
Falkirk Wheel
My sister and dad caught the tender service to join their excursion to visit the Falkirk Wheel. Although the excursions were well organised, when it came to transferring from the ship to the port by tender it was a time consuming processes - only so many passengers can fit into the tenders. Preference is given to those booked on excursions.

Excursion Falkirk Wheel cruse ship cunard cruise around Britain

The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift in Scotland, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The coach trip included commentary about the local area, a short boat trip along the canal with commentary and history about the Falkirk Wheel whilst on board as you go through the Falkirk Wheel.  My sister really enjoyed the excursion and says it was definitely worth while excursion - a marvel of engineering. 


That evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal on board in the formal Britannia restaurant, followed by a light and delicious dessert of meringue with fresh fruit.
Cunard cruise ship food britannia restaurant queen elizabeth

Next stop on my cruise around Britain...Invergordon 


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5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes

The humble pie dish, we all have one or two in the cupboard. They are such a versatile dish that can be used to bake, serve or hold a range of foods. If you are looking to buy a Pie Dish I am sharing some of my favourites, two pie dishes I use all the time that are pretty and decorative to those more practical and functional. Suitable for all budgets from bargain prices to something of a treat for yourself, or a perfect house warming gift.
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Ceramic Pie Dishes. Best Glass Pie Dish to Buy Budget

I have used mine to make deep dish fruit pie, Fruit Crumble, Savoury Pastry Pie, Fruit Salad, Cauliflower Cheese,  Fish Pie, Eves Pudding.
Pretty Pie Dish to Buy Oven to Tableware

This pretty pale blue and cream pie dish from Kitchen Craft is a favourite of mine. A beautiful blue and cream with a crimped decorative edge, and used many times  - it is perfect for baking goodies such as Bread and Butter Pudding to Chocolate and Rhubarb Pudding.  The dish measures 26 cms width 7 cms deep. Currently priced £11.95 on Amazon.
Photo credit: Emma Bridgewater
Who can resist a piece of Emma Bridgewater pottery, this delightfully pretty floral heart shaped design makes the perfect dish from oven to table. Tiny Scattered Rose dish £34.95 and measures 20cms diameter. 
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware
A shaped pie dish makes an attractive addition to a table setting and perfect to serve a pudding or fresh fruit salad. This pretty heart shaped polka dot design pie dish from Katie Alice called Highland Fling is a delight, it even comes complete with a cute pie funnel. The dish measures 26 cms width 5.5 cos deep.
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware
A glass pie dish will go with any decor and is perfect for seeing inside your bake too. This oval glass dish measures 25 x 20cms and 5.6cm deep from Wilko.com is a bargain at just £3!  Neutral grey colour round utility earthenware pie dish from Wilko is just £5. Perfect for a pudding or shepherds pie. Measures 24cms width 6cm deep.
5 Perfectly Pretty Oven to Table Pie Dishes Kitchen Tableware
My Emile Henry red fluted pie dish is the perfect decorative fruit dish for a special breakfast table laid for Mothers Day. I have also made cherry clafoutis in this dish, a sweet fruit batter style pudding.  The dish measures 26.5 cms round and costs approx £25 and comes in a variety of colours.

Do you have a favourite pie dish recipe?

If you purchase any of the dishes above using my link, I will receive a small commission. This income allows me to share my recipes, reviews and crafting adventures with you.
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