Thursday, 31 May 2012

Dans le jardin

The recent weather (rain, rain, rain, rain, SUN) has meant my garden has bloomed almost overnight. I took a stroll in my garden this weekend and took some pics of the flowers. I'm really pleased with how these have turned out, considering I was only snapping away on my iPhone.


Pretty peonies

Jasmine (I think!)
Jasmine around the front door
Lilac. It smells so strong, in a good way!
I don't know what this bush is but its pretty. Any help?

Beautiful Bluebells
Petunias
I rescued (read: pinched) 4 of these planters from my Dads house on Saturday, and have filled them all with a mix of petunia plants. The purple and cream ones are called the 'Creme Brulee' hybrid which I really liked. I mixed them with pink ones, and hopefully some orange and blue ones will come through too.

So there you have my garden. And here it is in all its glory.
Taken on a grey and miserable day!
Do you have any pretty flowers in your garden?

p.s: the playhouse and slide aren't mine unfortunately, they are my step-daughter-to-be's :-)

Rachel x

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Shiny New Button

Ooh I have a shiny new button.

Isnt it pretty?


Mahoosive thanks to Sarah (Almost Delightful) for designing it for me!!

If you're interested in doing a swap, feel free to take the code below for my button. And drop me a mail (reluctantbumpkin@gmail.com) or comment below to let me know you have done so, so I can return the favour!

<a href="http://thereluctantbumpkin.blogspot.co.uk/" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1256.photobucket.com/albums/ii497/rheezie/reluctantbumpkin1.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Rachel x

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Nail Biter Diaries #1

I'm a chronic nail biter.

*gasp*

I know, I know. I'm 25, I should've grown out of it by now. I've grown out of sucking my thumb (mostly), so why can't I stop nibbling on my nails?

Answer truthfully is; I dont know.

I’ve been reading a lot of beauty blogs recently, and in particular nail varnish reviews. I long for lush talons which
I can paint in pretty colours. I get so embarrassed when people ask to see my engagement ring, because I know my disgusting stumps will be the focus of attention for a few seconds.

The thing is, I often find myself having nibbled and I don’t really know how it happened, if that makes sense? I don’t remember consciously biting. I'm not saying I do it in my sleep, but nail biting must be so engrained in my habits now that I do it without realising.

If you're easily scared, I'd look away now. Here is a picture of my offending nails:



Boohoohooooo
 Again, I know. They are horrific. I'm sorry to have shown you them!

I've tried and failed before - I hope this time is different. I've invested in some professional cuticle cutters and oil, and as soon as these arrive I will trim and oil myself up.

I'm going to try the old 'stop and grow' technique - i.e paint my nails (read: stubs) in a gross tasting varnish. And see how that goes. I’ve also invested in some pretty nail colours (like this one below Rimmel Lycra Pro - Aqua Cool), and whilst they look a little ridiculous on my wee nails at the moment, I’m hoping that by painting them I’ll be a little more aware of them and therefore stop nibbling.


Dorothy Perkins nail polish


I'll document my progress on my blog and in my mind, you're all rooting for me so that'll be some extra motivation to stop :)

Wish me luck!

If you have any suggestions for products/supplements to encourage nail growth and strength, I'd be really grateful to hear about them.

Rachel x

Monday, 28 May 2012

Bare legged injury

Aha. Summer. We meet again.

I’m sure I’m not the only one stressing about the bare leg occasions coming up now that summer is ‘officially’ here (hope I don’t jinx it).

At the weekend, I ventured out in my back garden in a dress. My legs are so blummin’ pale they are practically see-through, so I felt it was safer to attempt a base tan in the privacy of my garden without blinding random people elsewhere.

I was innocently hanging my washing out, when disaster struck. We’ve improvised a washing line prop with a huge block of wood we found in the shed. Its seriously heavy duty, and as I removed a towel from the line it came crashing down and landed on my calf. The result? A yelp of pain and THE MOTHER of all bruises.

please excuse my pasty whites :(

See?

Its literally huge. Huge and purple and green. I didn’t cry, I was super brave, but I could cry now at the hideous-ness that is my left leg.

So away go my legs after their one day in the sun, safely encased in leggings until it fades.

Anyone know how to make bruises fade quicker? Or do I have no choice but to let it run its course?

Rachel x


Pastures New.

So I’ve been offered a new job. *yay*

I’m so pleased about this – I interviewed with them early last week and really, really wanted the role. Not only is it exactly what I want to be doing (marketing communications & events) but I’ll be based 4 miles from home. I can cycle to work! Or at least I can think about cycling to work.

Now though, I have the unpleasant business of handing my notice in at my current job. I HATE doing this; I panic and stress about it so much. On this occasion, I really shouldn’t. I’ve been miserable here pretty much since day 1, and they haven’t been the nicest of employers. But yet, I still feel guilty. Guilty for trying to better myself and getting myself out of a horrible situation. Guilty for leaving them in the lurch, even though they haven’t shown me a scrap of decency or professionalism at all. 

Why why why?!

I finally strapped on a pair and spoke to my manager on Friday afternoon. He was actually really nice, very disappointed and asked if there was anything (financially) they could do to make me stay. This made me laugh; if you can offer me more money now, why not do it anyway? Why does it take handing your notice in to make them think about paying you what you're worth?

Anyhoo moaning over - its over and done with now and I CANNOT WAIT to get out of here. 2 weeks yaaaay!

Rachel x

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sweet Smells - Yankee Obsession

I’ve never really bought into scented candles; I find a lot of them expensive and have always tried to apply the ‘cost vs. enjoyment’ formula to purchases.

Then I received this Yankee candle tart burner for Christmas one year. I actually love the simplicity of it, and it ties in with my new home wonderfully. I also love the fact that I can change the scent of the tart on a daily basis, and that in most shops; a tart costs no more than £2! I tend to buy most of mine off eBay, and treat myself to a few new ones each month.


When we moved in, we were given the Yankee Candle ‘Home Sweet Home’ jar as a gift. Whilst it looks gorgeous, the scent is just too strong for me and after having a headache for a full day, I narrowed it down to this candle. The clove and cinnamon whiffs are just too much!

My favourite smells to have in my home definitely fall into the sweet or fruity category. Here are my favourites:



Mandarin Cranberry: The right balance between sweet and fresh



Coconut Bay: I'm a sucker for anything coconutty. I'm coconuts for coconut!
 

Creamy caramel: Smells good enough to eat (I'd advise against eating the tart)


Sicilian Lemon: If there's one thing I love more than lemon, its a Sicilian lemon.
 I can’t wait for this Christmas to come round, so I can fill my house with scents of Christmas Cookies, Cranberry Chutney and Cherries on Snow.

What smell would you love from a candle?

I would just love the scent of freshly baked bread in my house, without the hassle of actually making bread!

Rachel x

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Home Grown Goodness.

We are lucky to have a huge garden, complete with veggie patch and greenhouse. And a man shed for Steve (formerley known as the Mr - it really is just easier to type his name out!), god knows what he does in there.

We've decided to grow our own veggies, and about a month a go we (read: he) sowed the seeds.

Here's progress so far:



Fencing designed to keep cats, bunnies and Rachel's out.

We have carrots, onions, beetroot, lettuce, radish and potatoes growing, and pretty healthily so far!

I've decided Steve will defo be in charge of the patch, whereas I'll take ownership of the green house. So far we have a wee litte pepper plants and some tomato stalks in the utility room, when I feel brave enough that its not going to frost anymore I'll pop them in the greenhouse. And I'll add some strawbs and chillis soon. We already have a mahoosive rosemary bush growing, but I heart basil & mint so will plant those soon too.

My red pepper plant
Tomatoes
Slightly blurry rosemary bush

I cant wait to taste our home grown veg and see if it really is better than supermarket stuff.

Fear not - just because you dont have a huge garden doesnt mean you cant grow your own veg and herbs.

Here's some great ideas using limited space!

Planters planters everywhere! (image credit)

Strawberries in a hanging basket. Reach up, pluck, eat. YUM.

(image credit)

Herb window baskets - indoor or out. You all agree fresh herbs are much nicer than dried. Dont you?

(image credit)
(image credit and where to buy)


(image credit and where to buy)

If you are wanting to go (partly) self-sufficient, all I would say is research, research and research. Plants are living things and what they need in order to thrive varies from type to type. If every plant you've owned to date has gone to the big flowerbed in the sky; you'll want hardier, low maintenance veg which can be grown in pots on your patio.

I'd love to know if you're embarking on home growing, so please leave your link below and I'll have a look.

Rachel x

Asparagus & Poached Eggs

Another scrummy dinner was enjoyed in our household last night.

We popped over to see Steve’s grandparents, who have a farm and grow a load of veg. After raiding their tomato plant supplies for our green house, and looking at the newly-hatched bright yellow goslings, his granddad cut us some asparagus to take home.

It was AMAZING. And huge. Not like the streaky wiry crap you get in the supermarkets, this was massive. As soon as we got home I chucked two cheddar and mustard 'melt in the middle' fish cakes in the oven, and fried up the asparagus in a bit of butter with some salt and pepper. Not the healthiest way to eat it I know, but it retains its crunchiness and the nutty flavour is complimented by the salty butter. Mmmm.

I then poached a couple of double yolker eggs (also from the farm) for dippin' the asparagus in and voila – dinner.


Oh man it was good. If you ever see someone selling asparagus at the side of the road (y’know, those signs that are popular in the UK!), defo stop by and get some, as the homegrown stuff will be the same quality as this. It takes 2 years to grow a decent crop of asparagus, so a lot of love goes into it and it shows in the size and flavour!

N:B: asparagus makes your wee smell really really weird. So avoid it before doctors appointments :)

We followed our yum dinner with jelly and icecream. Oh so classy!



Rachel x

Monday, 21 May 2012

DIY Project: Country Dining Upcycling

We love having dinner parties, and luckily we were given a dining table and 6 chairs when we moved into our country pad. We were very grateful for because although it wasn’t to our taste or style, the cost of a brand new set is astronomical. I’m not kidding!

I so wish I’d of taken before photos, but I didn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyhoo, it was orange pine, with a shiny varnish, and brown tartan seat covers. Hopefully you can imagine the retro-ness of it, and I can assure you that it was not retro in a good way. It was in good condition though, despite being up in the previous owners loft for about 12 years. It was actually a wedding present of theirs. All the more reason to work on it and make it lovely again!

Here’s what we did. I don’t claim to be an expert in furniture restoration but this process worked for us.

+ The Mr was reluctant to let me use his electric sander (me + power tools = disaster), so wisely took charge of the sanding process. This took a couple of days, the table itself was relatively simple (he tells me), it being a flat surface and all, but the chairs with their cylindrical backs took ages and resulted in tantrums and swears from the shed.

+ We then primed the ‘raw’ sanded wood with wood primer, in white.

+ Once that had dried, we painted one chair in wood paint ‘Magnolia’. We gasped with horror at the orange-y disgustingness that was this colour, made an emergency trip to Homebase, bought ‘Antique Cream’ instead, and resumed painting. The table top itself looked gorgeous after sanding so we decided to leave that as it was, and just painted the legs and chairs. It needed a couple of coats for good, even coverage.

+ Once that had dried, we applied a couple of coats of MATTE varnish. I hate shiny, and so does he, so it worked quite well. We bees waxed the table top and then gave that a coat of matte varnish too for extra protection.

+ We recovered the chair seats with a fairly neutral polkadot material.

Aaaaanddd......Voila! Here’s the finished product


All in all, it took about 3 weeks from start to finish (bearing in mind we both work full time so were restricted to weekend work), and I bloody love the finished product. We get a lot of compliments on it, and all it cost us was about £40 in total for the paint and material.

If you’re thinking of throwing an old, decrepit piece of furniture away because its past its best, think again. Could it be restored it to its former beauty, or changed to suit your current decor? I would highly recommend doing a project like this. Yes, it takes time and effort, but the end results mean you have a unique piece in your home, which you can feel really proud of! And you’ll have saved money. Money for all important shoes.

I’m eyeing up my dressing table next for a spot of upcycling, and will definitely take before/during/after photos and share them with you!

Rachel x

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Heading to Hertfordshire

One of Steves oldest friends, Kev, works as a game keeper for a country estate in Hertfordshire and lives with his lovely fiancĂ© Vicki. Vicki is currently undergoing her teacher training and working on placements in primary schools, I can’t imagine anyone better for this type of job!

Being a Game Keeper is hard work and a 24/7 job. Kev is essentially on call all the ruddy time and his job is to essentially ‘grow’ the pheasants, ensuring they are happy, healthy and protected from predators, up until the day they meet their destiny, are set free, and are shot at by people who have paid for the privilege to do so.

Kev has guns, and has to shoot pests (foxes etc) and trap them to protect the pheasants. He is also a qualified deer stalker. Steve lives his inner huntsman through Kev, and will go empty the traps with him and drive around in what is essentially a cross country golf buggy, but is actually called a Gator.

A John Deere Gator. They only way to roll in the country.
They live in a cottage on the estate, have 4 dogs (Monty, Sandy, Harla & Leo), chickens and ferrets (John & Jim). Their huge cockerel is called Heff, a fact I love.

We visit them once every few months, and our weekends generally go like this:
+ Saturday - Leave house, stop for a Krispy Kreme at services on the way
+ Arrive at Kev & Viks, have cup of tea, catch up
+ Boys slope off to play golf
+ Rachel & Vicki go to pub
+ Drink all afternoon
+ Rendezvous later in the evening, head out for dinner, have more drinks
+ Sunday – wake up, don gilets and wellies, take the dogs for a long walk around the estate (I walk Monty, the golden lab. He is stupid, excitable and beautiful. I love him).
+ Come back, go home.

The estate is beautiful and apparently the Beckam’s send their children to the private school on the estate (when they aren’t galavanting in the US of A, obvs.). I am yet to spot the Beckham tribe trudging round in their wellies on one of our walks, unfortunately.

More on our adventures in Hertfordshire later.

Rachel x

Friday, 18 May 2012

French Apple Cake

Mmm cakey.

This recipe was given to me by an actual French man, so it's bound to be a good'un. And its easy to make too.

You will need:

+ 100g plain flour
+ 100g sugar
+ 4 eggs
+ 3 apples
+ 2 teaspoon baking powder
+ 1 tablespoon olive oil
+ Zest of 1 lemon

Method:

Peel, core and slice (thinly) the apples. I used braeburns, cos I like 'em. I don't think it matters which flavour you use though so pick your favourite.

Arrange them nice and neatly in the bottom of a cake tin. Or just chuck them in like I did.


Measure all the other ingredients into a bowl. I only had 50g of sugar, so put a tablespoon of honey in as well.


Now whisk. Whisk it good! Whisk until all the ingredients are nicely blended, and the mixture is a pancake batter consistency.

action shot.
Pour over the apples in the tin.

Another action shot

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 mins. It is quite a moist cake, so don't over do it.

Remove, leave to cool for a bit, enjoy!!



Oooh - a bit of cinnamon would've been lovely in this. Next time!

Rachel x

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Viola May

My very talented friend Nicola has recently set up her own business, Viola May, doing what she loves and making cushions, shower caps, and pretty things in general.

Here's some beaut cushions she's made:




And here are some of her fabulous shower caps:



And some more lovely cushions:



And here she is, the lady herself (L):


These cushions have now become my staple gift for anyone who’s just had a baby. Nicola is an absolute doll and a pleasure to work with.

The fact they are personalised makes them such special, unique gifts, and something that can be treasured for years to come.

Head to her Facebook page Viola May to have a look at her wares for yourself and to contact her.

Rachel x

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Travel Diaries: Happy Prague

Me & The Mr, my sister and her hubby headed to Prague for a long weekend in November 2011.

We didn’t really know what to expect other than a lot of beer, food & fun.

Here’s how our weekend went down:

Friday:
Catch stupidly early flight. Arrive. Head to ‘Happy Prague’ apartments. Gasp in amazement at how amazing apartments were. Check the bedroom!


Wander round Wenceslas Square; drink in the beautiful and imposing architecture.




Stop for coffee at the prettiest Starbucks we have ever seen.




Go to the Sex Machines Museum. Do I need to spell out what was here? Rather than being lewd it was really, really interesting. There were a host of contraptions from throughout the ages (FYI – Victorians = Filth Bags), patents for various toys and aids, and a small cinema showing vintage (1930’s/40's) porn. Verrrry interesting and well worth a look! N:B – not for prudes!



Patent for a 'Decorative Penile Wrap'

Go for dinner, collapse in bed as all too old for early flights.

Saturday:
Long lie in followed by more strolling around the Old and New squares. See more fab architecture.




Stop for lunch at Hooters, where the boys polished off: 50 x chicken wings, 4 x burgers, 3 litres of beer and a mound of curly fries. Between two of them. No really – I was so proud.
Walk over to the beer museum. Not actually a museum, more of a pub with 35 different types of beer on tap. It cost around £20 for us to sample every beer. Raspberry beer = Yum. Chocolate beer = YUM. Get suitably pished and made friends with a crazy, drunken Irish student.

Strip Club: When in Rome? Boys chatted too and pretended they were part of a stag party, whilst me and my sister chatted to the friendly strippers. Stag Party declared us ‘cool’ because we let the boys in a strip club in the first place.

Sunday:
Head to a museum all about torture. It was really quite disturbing – some of the machines were just horrific.

Have a walk over a beautiful bridge.


Head back to Wenceslas Square and purchase some smoked ham from the market. Misunderstand the currency completely, and end up paying £18 for small plate of said ham. It was blumming good ham though.


Have massages. Get beaten up by small Thai man for half an hour and pay £9 for the privilege.

Go for dinner, drink an insane amount of Pinot Grigio, stumble back to apartments, sleep.

Monday:
Wake up realising we’ve over done it, are very tired and very hungover. Wave good bye to Prague and fly home.

Loved Prague and can’t wait to go back. Although reading back we did have quite a laddish weekend (beer, boobs and meat), it certainly isn’t just a stag do destination.

Rachel x
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