c May 2016 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Saving Bees and their Habitat

Here in the UK it is time to count bees for the Great British Bee Count which runs between 19 May to 30 June. There has been a rapid decline in the bee population including the extinction of some species in the UK.  The Great British Bee Count helps Friends of the Earth to monitor the numbers and types of bees we find in our gardens and countryside. 
As gardeners there are things we can actively do to provide bee friendly gardens, providing bees with a habitat that may help them survive. Sutton Seeds have created the infographic below which highlights the decline in the honey and bumble bees, how our crops are dependent on bees and the volume of honey consumed by the UK. There is lots of helpful and intriguing information, who knew the process honey went through!
Some of the bee friendly plants growing in my garden include: Aquilegia, Bluebells, Foxgloves, Lavender, Roses and Fuchsias. 

Do you grow any bee friendly plants?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.
Tips How to create bee friendly garden plants

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Adagio Teas a Refreshing Discovery

Adagio Tea and ingenuitea teapot review. I am often sent tea to review, who knew there was such a huge choice of brands available online. So it is quite unusual to find something that is a little bit different when it comes to tea. Let me introduce you to Adagio Tea, a brand I had never heard of before but I have been getting acquainted with for the past month or two.
Tea images cup and saucer
Along with tasting the tea I have been using Adagio Teas special ingenuiTEA teapot. Each blend of tea I was sent is contained in a good seal-able packet essential for storing. 

Adagio English Breakfast Tea
Not a typical tasting English Breakfast tea but I still enjoyed it, I brew my tea quite weak and enjoyed with milk.
Irish Breakfast Tea
I have never heard of this tea previously. It is a much stronger tea blend, with a deep flavour to it - I even tried brewing a weaker version but it was not to my taste. But if you enjoy a strong flavoured tea this will be perfect for you. I had mine with milk.
Earl Grey Moonlight Tea 
Wow, this tea really surprised me. I do drink Earl Grey occasionally though it is not my favourite blend. I was intrigued with the added Cornflowers and I found I thoroughly enjoyed it, it has a light, refreshing and subtle flavour. I was not on my own either, both my sister and a friend that was visiting both express who much they liked this. Our visitor enjoyed it so much he has since ordered a pack for himself. So don't just take my word for it. 
Blueberry White Tea  
I have never drank white tea before, I have purchased it in the past as I have an aunt that particularly enjoys it. A light and fragrant tea and a pleasure to drink. I was hoping to have a catch up with my aunt so I could share her views on this white tea, but time and decorating have prevented this.
Casablanca Twist Green Tea
Green tea is not something I tend to buy. In the past it was a drink I enjoyed immensely during a visit to Japan, a number of years ago. I still have a special Japanese green tea cup that was gifted to me. This green tea is blended with peppermint, and is a super refreshing cup of tea, enjoyed black. In fact I can imagine enjoying this as an iced tea too, roll on the Summer.
Loose tea selection Adagio Teas
I love… 
the amazing ingenuiTEA teapot. A plastic teapot suitable for brewing loose teas, holds 450ml water. You can watch as your tea is infusing and when it reaches your perfect brew. Place the teapot above your cup, gently sit it down onto the rim and see the tea flow in. As soon as you lift off the cup the tea stops flowing. Now what impressed me most about this is that when it stops it stops, no dripping at all. So no need to place it onto a saucer as I initially did, just place it down on the kitchen surface or tea tray.  
Each sachet of loose tea comes with instructions on how long it is recommended to brew the tea and also the best temperature for the water. 

5 years on from receiving this teapot and its still going strong, its much used. It is great for brewing fruit tea, have a cup of hot tea then leave enough in the teapot, pop it in the fridge and you have iced tea!

Adagio tea ingenuiTea loose tea Teapot
Adagio tea ingenuiTea Teapot
Could do better…
  • No I can not think of a single thing, just wish I had discovered Adagio Teas sooner.
Perfect for…
  • Teas are available both loose and in teabags so no need to worry if you do not have a teapot, or if you just prefer the ease of tea bags. 
  • For those of you that like to enjoy a cup of loose tea at work, the ingenuiTEA teapot would be perfect
The important stuff…
  • Teas and the amazing  ingenuiTEA teapot can be purchased from the Adagio Teas website. The Earl Grey Moonlight 85g costs £4 and the ingenuiTEA teapots start from £16.
  • Register for Adagio Teas newsletter and you will receive 20% off your first order.
Earl Grey Tea Moonlight
Earl Grey Moonlight Tea
 Watch my video below to see how the ingenuiTea teapot works.
Disclosure: I received tea samples from Adagio Teas for the purpose of this review.
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Tea Cup Exchange of Gifts - Five of Friday

As a blogger I sometimes link up with other bloggers, sharing recipes joining in with monthly crafting linkys. It is a way of sharing a recipe or crafty make with fellow bloggers and discovering their creations too. Through a blog link I discovered a gifting linky called the Tea Cup and Mug Exchange, created and organised by the lovely Stephanie who blogs at The Enchanting Rose. 
Tea Cup and Mug Exchange
Tea Cup and Mug Exchange Gifts
You agree to send a Teacup & Saucer or Mug, a selection of teas or coffees and a few other items to someone either in your country or overseas.
I received mine this week, a little later than most people as there was a slight mix up with my exchange. It was being shipped from Canada from Gillian at Gigi Photography. 
Wonderful handmade gifts
My surprise Tea Cup exchange parcel contained lots of lovely delights. I felt rather special unwrapping my parcel from Gillian knowing it had come all the way from Canada. 

It was a delight to discover five wonderful gifts all specially selected for me. 
  • Pretty china cup and saucer 
  • DIY Mason Jar Creative Crafts book - one of the idea to create a glitter dome from a Mason Jar has caught my eye.
  • Handmade lotion bar, which smells delightful.
  • Handmade Rose hip tea blend and Rose Petal Bath Tea bag, your literally brew yourself a bath how fun is that. 
  • Delicate cotton and lace handkerchief
I can not wait to try some of the craft suggests in the DIY Mason Jar book, as I have a number of these jars in the cupboard. I can be crafting whilst enjoying a cuppa in my new teacup and saucer.
Tea Cup and Mug Exchange
I sent my teacup and saucer which you can see above, along with a selection of teas, a Shropshire notebook, Liberty pencil and a chocolate treat to the wonderful Sweet Briar Dreams. Do pop over and have a look, Chel has captured the gift in some beautiful photographs. I could barely part with the tea cup and saucer, for it was so delightful. I did manage to take a photograph prior to gift wrapping. I have also discover a new blog to follow too.
Tea Cup and Mug Exchange
If you want to see the wonderful selection of Teacup, Mugs and gifts exchanged by everyone see the Teacup Exchange round up post, on the Enchanting Rose. I have to say a huge thank you to Stephanie for organising it all, with so many people it surely took a much of her time. 
The next Teacup and Mug Exchange takes place later this year, you can find out more information at The Enchanting Rose. You do not have to be a blogger to join in.

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Giveaway BBC Gardeners World Live Tickets (Closed)

It's giveaway time on Garden Tea Cakes and Me! For all my fellow gardeners I have 2 pairs of tickets to the BBC Gardeners World Live, to win. The show takes place at NEC Birmingham between 16 - 19 June. 
win tickets bbc gardeners world live

 BBC Gardeners World Live Show Highlights
  • New VegTrug practical demos and great ideas on how to make even the smallest of spaces productive and tasty for your grow your own vegetables.
  • New Small Garden Solutions
  • New Gardeners Interview Stage
  • Show Gardens
  • Floral Marque
  • Kids Gardens 
  • Rose Festival
  • BBC Good Food Live
  • plus much more
Some of the biggest names in gardening will be at the show, Monty Don, Joe swift, Carol Klein, Matt Briggs, Skinny Jean Gardener...

Obviously there is plenty of plant shopping to enjoy, in previous years I added to my herb collection with a Pineapple Sage plant. It has an amazing scent and I have split it to create several more plants. 

Claim 20% discount of each ticket when you book your tickets in advance quote MV20.  

It has been 3 years since I visited BBC Gardeners World Live, find out what I enjoyed most at my previous visit.
How to enter
To be in with a chance of winning this lovely prize confirm your entry/entries using the Rafflecopter widget. 

Answer the following question: 

What are you most looking forward to at the show? (leave your answer & name as a blog comment (it should publish immediately) and confirm your entry using the rafflecopter widget below) 

The winner will be notified by email using the email address you used to activate the rafflecopter widget.

If you can not see the Rafflecopter widget below, you may need to refresh your page press F5. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Closes 7 June 2016.  UK entrants only. Tickets will be sent directly to the name and address collected in the Rafflecopter widget.  For Terms and Conditions click the link on the Rafflecopter widget.

See my guide to Sowing Sunflower seeds
Disclosure: Prize supplied by BBC Gardeners World Live
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How to Sow Sunflower Seeds

April - May is the perfect time to start sowing Sunflower seeds, whether you are aiming for the tallest Sunflower in your street or a beautiful display of pot dwarf Sunflowers.
How to Sow Sunflower seeds
I have grown Little Leo Sunflower seeds for the last few years, they are a dwarf variety and perfect for pots making a great patio display. Along with the Little Leo variety I will also be growing Black Magic Sunflowers, they have dark chocolate brown flowers and grow to around a metre tall.
Sunflowers are easy to grow, just follow these few simple steps suitable for all varieties.
You will need:-
- Small pots
- Multi Purpose Compost

- Sunflower Seeds

- Labels

How to sow sunflowers seeds
- Fill your pots with compost
- Add two seeds to each pot and cover with  half an inch of compost, and tamper the soil down gently
- Water your pots
- Add a label
- Leave in a sunny sheltered spot in the garden or in an unheated greenhouse.

How to sow sunflowers seeds

                  How to sow sunflowers seeds
Check them regularly in case they need watering, also check the pots have not blown over on a windy day.
In a few weeks you should have a small sunflower sprouting.  
Plant out in there final sunny location in the garden when they are around 10cms tall, as they grow taller tie them to a support cane using twine.

Try planting the seeds directly into the ground and see what happens. If I did this the squirrels would soon discover them and they would never make it to seedlings.
How to grow sunflowersEnjoy your wonderful display of Sunflowers that will be much admired by visitors or passers by.

Plan ahead for free Sunflowers for next year
In Autumn you will also find my guide to saving Sunflower seeds helpful.
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Reading Challenge 2016 Update 2

My 2016 Reading Challenge continues. I am still on course to read 20 books during the year, I have made progress with my plan to include well known authors and books that are seen as classics.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I received this book many years ago as a secret Santa present. It has been on my bookshelf patiently waiting for me to read it, along with a few other books by Charles Dickens. The big question is: Was it worth the wait? 

Yes, although I am regretting waiting so long. It took me quite a few chapters to adjust to Dickens style of writing, very wordy and descriptive, typical for its time I understand. But it really is worth persevering.  
Book synopsis : After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
Dickens has such a skill in his writing, I even liked the unlikable characters. Though I am not sure it was intentional, at first I found Charles Darnay not to be a terribly interesting character - this soon changes. I particularly liked Jarvis Lorry, an aged banker at Telsons who links together the main characters in the story.  There is always a purpose to even the smallest element of the story line, it all unfolds and links together as you progress through the book. So you do have to keep your whits about you, so as not to miss anything.
I was very surprised by Dickens description of the French Revolution scenes, very gruesome indeed. There are twists and turns a plenty in this book. After struggling with the first 50 pages I soon found myself immersed in the story and having great empathy for many of the characters.  
Having watched numerous drama adaptations of Dickens on tv, I have always wondered why this book had never made it to the small screen. Having read the book I can see how a tv production would struggle to recreate the scale of the French Revolution scenes both with numbers of actors involved and historical setting, not to mention the violence.

I am certainly now more informed about this period of history, and will certainly read another book by Dickens from my bookshelf. 

I scored this book 4/5 on Goodreads. 
The Tale of Two Cities is available to download to kindle for free, click on my image below to download from Amazon now. 


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I had heard so many good things about this book, yet avoided   reading too many reviews that would give away the story. For me this is a must read, an essential addition to your bookshelf. I don't think I even read a full synopsis of the story, with the book receiving such positive comments on Social Media I knew it would be a great read. 
Book Synopsis:   Every day the same.Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.  Until today. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
The story moves at quite a pace, flipping between time frames whilst you follow the life of Rachel. Which at first had me a little confused, but actually captures the chaos of the character Rachel very well. The book will leave you questioning yourself and what you think you know about some of the characters. It was easy to jump to conclusions, and as a reader it even had me pondering on how I judged someone on what I assumed to be the truth. Would I have had the patients, the friendship and loyalty to stick  by and help a friend. I just could not put this book down, and read it within a few days. 
You will not look through the window of your next train journey in quite the same way. If you have not read this book yet, download it today and put right that wrong. A thoroughly good read!

I scored this book 5/5 on Goodreads, a must for everyones bookshelf.

A Day at the Office by Matt Dunn
Not my usual book to read. But I had a choice of a free book to download from a bar of chocolate I bought a few years ago and this has been on my Kindle app ever since. I was having a down day, that is I was choosing to have a relaxing day, not that I was a misery guts. Some days it is good to put your feet up, drink tea, eat biscuits and read - totally ignore your to do list. 
Book synopsis: For most people, Valentine’s Day means flowers, chocolates, and candlelit dinners. But for five of Seek Software’s employees, it’s shaping up to be as much fun as a trip to the dentist.
Long-term singleton Sophie has a crush on colleague Nathan but worries he doesn’t even know her name. And is there really any point in her sending a card to the man who organises the annual office Anti-Valentine’s party?
Overweight, insecure, and still living with his mum, Calum’s desperate for a girlfriend. He’s recently met the woman of his dreams online but his exaggerated profile might mean tonight’s first date could also be their last.
Mark’s been besotted with Julie since she kissed him at the office Christmas party. While she doesn’t seem to remember a thing, today might be his best chance to remind her. If only he could work out how.
This little gem of a book was a very easy read, the story is much as the title describes it follows the day of a number of staff that all work at the same company. That day just happens to be February 14th, Valentines Day. 

I enjoyed this book, it was light hearted, humorous tale following peoples adventures. Those desperately trying to embrace the spirit of Valentines Day or those doing their best to avoid it. I am quite sure you will identify one or two of the characters to someone in your own office. After all there is always someone who knows how to stretch their lunch hour into 3 hours. I was not expecting it to be such a funny book, I think the author captures the English sense of humour very well.  
I scored this book 3/5 on Goodreads.


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. Or read my reviews on the first four books of my 2016 Reading Challenge from March.

Have you read any good books of late?

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Budget Afternoon Tea Offers and Tips for Booking

Afternoon Tea can be enjoyed by all no matter your budget. I have enjoyed afternoon tea at 5 star hotels that cost over £40 per person, but I have equally enjoyed a budget version in a small cafe for under £10.
Budget Afternoon Tea Offers

Finding an Afternoon Tea bargain can be a real treat, both to yourself and your purse. 
Here are some of my favourite Groupon Budget Afternoon Tea offers. Keep your eyes peeled for Groupon Afternoon Tea offers in all areas of the UK.

Shropshire / Ironbridge
Maws Tea Room
A tea room I discovered last year located at the heritage Maws Craft Centre in historical and beautiful Coalport / Ironbridge.
Cost - Afternoon Tea for 2 people is just £16(click for offer) includes a selection of finger sandwiches, scones, pastries and a hot drink.
Maws Tea Room Ironbridge

Wolverhampton / West Midlands
The Toffee Nosed Cake Company
I enjoyed afternoon tea here earlier this year, the sandwiches, tea and cakes were exceptional and all handmade (see photo). This  cafe come tea room is run by a Masterchef semi-finalist, located in a suburb of Wolverhampton just outside the main ring road. Not the prettiest of locations but handy if you live in the area and as I said good food, oh and extra marks for fresh flowers on each table.
Cost - £16 Afternoon Tea for 2 (click for offer)includes unlimited tea and Americano coffee, generously filled sandwiches, cakes and a mini dessert.
Afternoon Tea - The Toffee Nosed Cake Company

NEC/West Midlands
Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel
Great location if you are taking someone to the NEC for the day.  Or if you going to a concert at the Genting Arena make a day of it, free use of the leisure club followed by afternoon tea and your concert later.  I enjoyed a lovely stay here a few years ago and have attended a number of seminars when I used to work full time, always good food.
Cost - £29 for an afternoon tea with a glass of Prosecco and leisure club access for two Check the terms and conditions for specific exclusions. 

DoubleTree Hilton West End 4* Hotel
A central London location perfect for a day sigh sighting. There are always bargains to be found in central London and this is just one of many. Again this is for two people.
Cost - £25 Afternoon Tea for 2 (click for offer)

If you know of any other bargain Afternoon Tea locations you would recommend do let me know.

My Tips When Booking a Budget Afternoon Tea

  • You can still enjoy good food, although you should be aware that not all cakes and treats maybe made by the cafe or hotel. 
  • You may be in a busy cafe, or plan it right with a mid week booking for a quieter time. 
  • But if you are meeting up with a friend for a catch up or some quality time with your mum -  then a bargain afternoon can turn a normal tea and cake catch up into something special, but still on a budget.
  • Check the excludes section, often a Saturday is not available, you have to book and use your coupon between a set date e.g. 90 days. 
  • Do not always believe the photo, some offers use general cake and tea photographs from the internet. Therefore they are not always representative of what you will receive, so bare this in mind when booking.

Contains affiliate links

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Mexican Inspired Stuffed Courgettes and Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Soft Tacos Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

I love a challenge, so when Old El Paso were looking for bloggers to create a fun and exciting recipe to celebrate the Mexican Cinco de Mayo holiday, my hand went straight up. Mexican tortillas are a great food for sharing with friends and family, perfect for a party and it gets everyone involved. It is easy to create your ideal    stuffed tortillas using the Old El Paso Stand 'n' Stuff soft taco kit. 
Cinco De Mayo Stuffed Zucchinni Courgettes
Young or old, get create and be as brave as you dare, from slightly spicy too super hot. The moment you add the spicy and flavoursome sauce from the Stand n Stuff kit into the pan the kitchen in filled with amazing aromas that will transport you to Mexico, and make your appetite grow. 
Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Taco Kit
Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Taco Kit
The Stand and Stuff kit comes in mild and smokey barbecue varieties. I found the mild to be just as it said the perfect balance of spice and heat for those of us with delicate taste buds. Use a jar of Old El Paso Jalapeños to add extra heat. The accompanying soured cream and chunky guacamole toppings balance the heat perfectly. To accompany the dishes we enjoyed glass of a chilled Grapefruit Quencher, a refreshing and cooling for those of us that chose to go hot and spicy. 
Mexican Tortillas and stuffed courgettes Old El Paso Kit
Mexican Tortillas and stuffed courgettes cooking with Old El Paso
British Inspiration to a Mexican Meal
So we Brits are known for our traditional roast dinners, inspired by this and looking to save a few pennies I decided to use leftover cooked turkey. But you could easily use chicken. I also decided I wanted to incorporate more vegetables into the meal and decided on a great way to use courgettes.  This recipe will come in handy through the year too, as it will help me manage my anticipated courgette glut I currently have growing in the garden.

Creating Your Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Mexican Meal (serves 3-4)

Old El Paso Stand n Stuff kit 
130g leftover cooked Turkey
small tin of sweetcorn
diced red pepper
50g grated cheese
If you are making the stuffed courgettes you can also add the inside  of the courgettes, chopped.

Toppings for your Stand n Stuff Soft Tacos
Old El Paso Jalapeños 
Tomatoes quartered
Jar of Old El Paso soured cream with cool herb mix
Jar of Old El Paso Guacamole 
Shredded lettuce
50g grated cheese

Old El Paso tortilla blogger recipe

If you are going to create the stuffed courgettes, prepare your courgettes first.  See my Mexican Inspired Stuffed Courgettes recipe below.

Prepare your Mexican Tortilla Filling

Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a pan on a low heat add the peppers. 
After a few minutes add the turkey meat, sweetcorn and courgette. After a few minutes of cooking add the spiced tomato salsa mix from your Stand n Stuff kit. 
Cook until thoroughly heated through then stir in the grated cheese.

I also used some of this mixture to stuff some courgettes to accompany our tortillas. I took the mixture off the heat whilst my courgettes cooked through. 

The enjoy the tortillas at their best heat them through in the oven for 9 minutes, wrapped them in foil to prevent them drying out. You can warm them in the microwave, but as my oven was already on for the Mexican Stuffed Courgettes, I placed my Stand n Stuff Tortillas at the bottom of the oven.
Cinco De Mayo Party food

Get into the Cinco de Mayo Party Spirit
Why not enjoy some fun games and really get into the spirit of Cinco de Maya. I have put together a Pinterest Pin Board with lots of fun party ideas for all the family.

Mexican Stuffed Courgettes Recipe
  • Wash and cut in half (length ways) your courgettes.
  • Scoop out the inside, use a spoon or melon baller. 
  • Wipe the base of a oven proof dish with vegetable oil, place your courgettes inside.
Mexican Inspired Stuffed Courgettes Zucchinni
Mexican Inspired Stuffed Courgettes 

  • Create your Mexican spiced filling as above.
  • Use some of the filling and stuff the courgettes
  • Sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on the top
  • Bake for 20 mins oven temp 195 degrees C fan oven.
A minute before your courgettes are ready ensure your pan of Tortilla filling is heated through, and you have heated through your Stand n Stuff tortilla.

Now let the fun begin! Be warned you will over fill the lovely soft tortilla, no matter how hard you try you can not stop yourself adding a little extra. But oh my they tasted so good and the stuffed courgettes were a real winner too.

Mexican soft Tacos stuffed courgettes recipe Cinco De Mayo
Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Taco Kit and stuffed courgettes

If you have any of your Mexican Tortilla Stuffing remaining your can freeze it. Or make a batch in advance for the freezer. Or if you have a busy family day planned make the filling the night before and keep in the fridge. It will be ready to heat through when you get  back from your day out.

This post is an entry to the HIBS100 Cinco de Mayo recipe challenge sponsored by Old El Paso. The range of Old El Paso products is available in all major supermarkets. To find out more, visit www.oldelpaso.co.uk 

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