New Kitchen and Homeware! ~ from Chefs Collection

I was recently sent some goodies in the post from Chefs Collection to try out some of their most popular kitchenware and bathroom products. I was delighted to receive these cute gifts in the post and I’d like to share my thoughts on these items after trialing them in my own everyday life over the last week.

Chefs Collection specialises in cookware, bakeware, homeware, and all manner of kitchenware you could wish for from top quality and unusual brands that you won’t find in your everyday high street store. They were founded in 2016 in Norwich, (my home town, incidentally) and they stock an impresive range of kitchen and home brands at really good prices. Well worth a browse if you’re looking for some attractive designs for homeware or even if you’re after a wedding or birthday gift.


Champagne flute: La Rochere ‘Bee’

This champagne flute is a beautiful and yet practical piece of glassware; it’s very sturdy, unlike a lot of champagne flutes that I find tend to topple over, but it’s also very delicate. It feels like an antique, classic French design at the same time as looking quite modern. You will also notice the little bees at the top of the flute – the only detail on the flutes and this cute feature adds a little bit of country charm. La Rochere are inspired by 18th century designs and the bee flute takes me back to summers in the south of france, walking around lavender fields and vineyards. The brand dates back to 1475 and La Rochere is the oldest working art glassworks in France.

As I’m currently 7 months pregnant, I can’t put these champagne flutes to their optimal use so I’ve opted for apple juice instead. I have to say, it makes a soft drink feel very elegant and classy. I’ve enjoyed drinking from these flutes in the garden, enjoying the last of the late summer evening rays after work, and they will be a regular feature on date night home-cooked dinners.

La Rochere Bee champagne flute

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Spreading knife – Opinel

The website declares that Picasso owned one of these knives! Quite a claim to fame for Opinel. I wonder if he used it for spreading jam on his toast or for painting his Cubist masterpieces?

This is another established brand, dating back to 1890, and the spreading knife is a new addition to Opinel’s range of simple and elegant kitchenware.

This knife is definitely a quality item; it feels very robust, which you don’t normally get in a spreading knife as they can be quite flimsy. The blade is spatula-shaped and lends itself well to spreading butter and jam. I used it to spread my favourite Lotus biscoff spread on a homemade banana bread I made recently (by the way, that’s a great combination.)

Opinel spreading knife

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Nail brush – Andree Jardin

Here we have another company with a history in France making iconic designs known for their quality. This beechwood nail brush has proved very helpful after an afternoon in the garden; getting the soil out from under those fingernails is a tough job! The nail brush is quite a simple design with soft bristles and delicate lettering on the underside. It’s comfortable to hold and it doesn’t take long to get the dirt off; it rinses well after use and is an attractive feature on a bathroom shelf.

I was a bit concerned to see the bristles are made from horse hair unfortunately and the wood is polished with beeswax; I recognise that for most people this would be a mark of quality but using animal by-products is a bit of a let down for me, and I hope the brand can move away from this in future as there are modern alternatives available. (Horse hair, by the way, is usually ethically and humanely ‘harvested’ from grooming but is nevertheless a by-product I’m not comfortable with.)

Andree Jardin nail brush

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* I received these products for free to write an honest review of them. Thanks to Chefs Collection for sending me these items to try out. *

 

 

 

 

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Strumpshaw Fen, end of August

Strumpshaw Fen, end of August

After 2-3 months of blistering heat, August has been quite temperate and we’ve had a chance to cool off. I’ve also noticed a lot of autumn flowers and berries a bit earlier than normal as they have ripened too soon in the excessive heat.

So I get to do my autum berry photoshoots earlier than usual. :)

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We walked round RSPB Strumpshaw fen at the end of August and it was a windy, grey day so not many birds were out and about. There was a family of swans with their young cygnets and a flock of what I think were wild grey partridges, though they were very distant.

Those clouds!

How to keep wildlife safe in the heatwave

I am a very heat intolerant person. I’ll happily moan about the hot summer weather and I don’t care who it annoys because you know what? Hot weather makes me feel ill. It makes me dizzy, it gives me palpitations, it exacerbates all the dangerous cardiac symptoms of my chronic illness and anyone who insists that I should be obliged to enjoy hot weather can do one.

This year, the UK has been “enjoying” (read:¬†suffering) from extreme Mediterranean temperatures. I live in the driest county – East Anglia – and we haven’t had a single, solitary drop of rain for nearly 2 months. It’s been between 20-30 everyday and this week the office has been 32 degrees! I happen to have unwisely chosen this summer to be pregnant, so that’s also making me hot, sweaty and intolerant.


Our garden birds have been bringing this year’s young to our feeders, and that’s at least one thing I’ve been happy to see, but I am worried for them. I can’t put down water because the cat will get them. How are they keeping hydrated? How are farmland birds getting at worms in the parched earth? While the hot weather has been good for some species – reptiles and butterflies¬† – it has been bad for others, including amphibians and birds. Not to mention the devastating wild fires that have spread across moorland and farmland, which will have had a huge impact on the flora and fauna dependent on them.

So how can we look after wildlife in the heatwave?

  1. Leave out water dishes (make sure they are regularly cleaned and topped up and placed in a shady spot away from the hiding places of predators.)
  2. Leave out another water dish for bird baths – they need to keep their feathers clean and it helps to refresh them.
  3. Watch out for sleeping hedgehogs when you mow the lawn (there’s a brilliant poem by Philip Larkin on this matter; you can read it here.)
  4. Make a pond from a washing up bowl to give a cool, watery habitat for frogs and toads. The RSPB has some great advice on how to do this – you can read my experience of creating a garden pond in this blogpost.
  5. Keep your plants watered – wild plants can die in this heat, making our garden flowers even more attractive to pollinators.
  6. Don’t trim your hedges (you shouldn’t this time of year anyway!) as they can provide vital shade. In particular, let the ivy grow.
  7. Create nature highways between your garden and others. This is good advice for all year round but it really comes in handy in a heatwave to make it easier for hedgehogs and other animals to move between habitats in the hunt for food.
  8. Know which local animal charity numbers to ring if you see an animal in distress – the RSPCA website is a good place to start.
  9. Don’t forget pets! Take dogs for walks in the mornings or evenings and not in the midday sun. If it’s very hot, avoid hot surfaces like pavements as these can burn the dog’s paws. Cats will take care of themselves but make sure they have water, food and shade and keep the fleas at bay.

I hope this advice proves helpful! How are you keeping cool?

 

 

Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden – June 2018

On a hot day in June we took a drive out to Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden, a faerie-like dreamland of quiet streams and secret rhododendron paths.

The garden took 15 years to create when the late Lord and his team of gardeners began to restore the house and land after the war. The spectacle is quiet strange; almost current-less waterways cross the garden, and rooms of hydrangeas and camellia merge. There were plenty of ducks and their young, dragonflies and damselflies, and schools of thousands of sticklebacks.

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I’d love to know what kind of funghi are these?

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The foxgloves were out in force.

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An Egyptian goose spotted.

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I don’t feel so bad about the green skud on the surface of my pond – the water here is covered in it, you feel like it’s grass.

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The fields of wheat.

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We were really impressed to find that in the tearoom not only was there vegan cake in the form of a delicious chocolate and marmalade slice, but also there was a sandwich option. It doesn’t take much to add an easy hummus sarnie to your menu but it makes such a difference!

Vegan cheese & chive scones

I made these vegan cheese and chive scones this weekend for a street party and they went down surprisingly well.

I had to use a variety of vegan cheeses as I ran out but I think the mixture of cheddar and parmesan worked well as it gave it a stronger flavour. In future I would like to try a dairy free alternative to red leicester as it gives a redder colour.

I used chives I cut from my garden – I’ve been growing a lot of herbs this year and the chive plants needed a hair cut.

Ingredients

  • 510g plain flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder (I used Colmans)
  • 65g dairy free butter
  • 300ml soy milk
  • 380g vegan cheese

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