Starting a Vegetable Garden

I have a small back garden which I love. There is a lawn in the middle and around it are raised flower beds. Last year we got a new fence and when it was put up the men caused a trail of destruction. I lost all the plants that were in the flowerbed. I was a bit annoyed as I had a lovely lavender bush which attracted the bees. It did give me a great excuse for starting a vegetable garden.

When Debt Free Direct challenged me to grow my own vegetables and see if I could save money, I jumped at the chance. Luckily the weather has been a bit nicer recently so over the holidays I managed to tidy up the garden and plant some vegetables. I was sent a great selection of seeds and compost to get me started.

Gardening 4 Starting a Vegetable GardenI kept a record of the initial outlay to see if I managed to save any money by growing my own vegetables. I plan to show you my harvest at a later stage, provided everything grows, and work out the savings.The seeds include tomatoes, a packet of Gardeners Delight which are normal sized tomatoes and Roma which are cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, different types of lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, purple broccoli, butternut squash, runner beans and potatoes. These are all vegetables that I make a lot of use of and would buy on a regular basis.  I also received four bags of compost and three  potato planters which are a great way to grow potatoes on the patio.

  • Cost of seeds = £24.10
  • Cost of compost = 4 x £5 = £20
  • Cost of planter bags = 3 x £6 = £18
  • Total outlay = £62.10

I hope to save more than I spent as well as having much tastier vegetables to eat over the next few months. Home grown vegetables taste much nicer than shop bought.  Before I started planting I had to sort out the garden. As you can see the flowerbeds were full of weeds and the grass needed mowing. My first job was to get the big giant head out of the garage and install it in the garden. I put it away for the winter so it did not freeze and break. The water feature was soon up and running again.

plants31 Starting a Vegetable GardenMy second job was weeding out the tubs I have on the patio. These are ideal for growing lettuce and other salad vegetables. I added some extra compost and the lettuce seeds which are already starting to sprout. I also sorted out the herb garden which is also in containers on the patio. Even if you do not have a large garden you can utilise containers to grow some vegetables and fruit, I have a planter which is full of strawberry plants which are lovely fresh off the plant.

Gardening 9 Starting a Vegetable GardenNext to the lettuce I planted potatoes in their planters in the corner of the patio. These planters are ideal, you place the seed potatoes inside and as the plants grow you add more soil. They don’t take up much space and look nice as well. I am really looking forward to some new potatoes.

Gardening2 Starting a Vegetable GardenWhilst I weeded the side flowerbeds the dog helped by basking in the sun. I now have peas and runner beans next to the fence and onions in the corner mixed with some flowers for bees. Hopefully I can tell the difference as they grow.
plants2 Starting a Vegetable GardenCurrently my butternut squash, cucumbers and tomatoes are planted in seed trays on the window sill and are growing nicely. I will transplant them into pots soon and put them out when they are a lot bigger and less attractive to snails.

plants Starting a Vegetable GardenIf anyone has some great tips for keeping snails away please let me know. I have to say it was great fun planting vegetables amongst the flowers and I am really looking forward to my harvest. I hope to have an update on how my vegetable garden progresses at a later stage and if I did actually save any money by growing my own.

Disclosure: I was sent the products to help me create my garden courtesy of Debt Free Direct. I was not told what to write and all my opinions are my own.

Three Essential Spring Beauty Products

There are certain products that are always handy to have in your bathroom cupboard or handbag for when you need that quick beauty touch up.  I have recently found three essential Spring beauty products that I find myself reaching for time and time again. They are not make up items but rather things that make you feel instantly fresher, human and ready to take on the world. After all there are always times when we need an instant pick me up.

1. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly (RRP £2.08)

  Vaseline Three Essential Spring Beauty ProductsVaseline Petroleum Jelly is incredibly versatile and is even used my supermodels. Tyra Banks revealed recently that it was her top beauty secret. Vaseline provides deep nourishment for your skin and can be used to moisturise elbows, under eyes or on laugh lines. It will sink in quickly and not feel greasy providing protection for you skin. I also find it brilliant for using as a lip balm and for soothing cracked lips. You can also use it as a mascara in an emergency, just add a little to your fingers and run over your lashes. They will look darker and bigger in a flash. A big pot of Vaseline will last for ages as well.

Impulse Spray (RRP £1.99)

Impulse Three Essential Spring Beauty ProductsI love using Impulse, it is a perfume mixed with a deodorant and it is a great way to freshen up in a hurry. It is the ideal size for carrying around in your handbag. It also comes in a range of different scents so you can match your mood. Recently Impulse revealed its first ever oriental scent, Be Surprised. This features an exotic mix of violets and red fruits to make you think of the exotic holidays you have planned for the Summer. The scents are created by internationally renowned perfume experts, including Dior and Calvin Klein and contain real perfume oils to ensure the scent lasts. I love this new scent, the top notes are fruity and peppery then it wears away to a flowery scent which is not too sweet. It is ideal to take you from day time to evening. You can find Impulse in stores nationwide.

So? Dry Shampoo (RRP £1.49)

So dry shampoo Three Essential Spring Beauty ProductsI always have a can of dry shampoo in my bathroom, it is so handy for refreshing your hair before you go out for the evening. Great on holidays where you may have been swimming or lying on the beach and want a quick refresh before going out for the evening. It is not just useful if your hair is greasy, it will add scent to your hair and help build up the volume helping you create a gorgeous evening hair do. Recently I have been trying out So? Fabulous Dry Shampoo. It has a lovely perfume with notes of citrus, rose and white musk. It is also really easy to apply and makes my hair look better instantly. The So? Dry Shampoo comes in three other scents, So? Glamourous with mandarin, jasmine and sandalwood, So? Lovely which is more flirty with notes of apple, violet and sandalwood and So? Va Va Volume which is specially created to give your hair more body and volume. It contains notes of mango, orange flower and vanilla. Dry Shampoo is also ideal for when you are camping or at festivals and may not be able to wash your hair. You can find So? Dry Shampoo at Savers and

These are my three essential Spring beauty products, what makes it on your list?

Disclosure: I was sent the products in order to do an honest review. I was not told what to write and my opinions are my own.



Tropical Fruit Cake

There is something about having Fruit Cake with a cup of tea in the afternoon that makes it seem like more of an event. Fruit cake is easy to make, although it does take time to cook. Once baked it will keep for ages in a tin, if you have the will power to resist. Packed full of fruit it must be good for you, or at least that is my excuse.  It is the perfect centre piece for tea with the family and an excuse to sit down at the table and linger over a cup of tea and chat.

Tropical Fruit Cake Tropical Fruit Cake

I made a fruit cake for Easter, but as I wanted to use up some of my cupboard stores I decided to make a fruit cake with a slightly tropical twist. I added some dried apricot and some dessicated coconut in to the basic recipe. I have to say this actually worked really well, the apricot added a tropical taste to the fruit cake which worked well with the other fruit. It definitely made a change from a normal fruit cake.

Tropical Fruit Cake2 Tropical Fruit Cake

When I bake a fruit cake I always wrap a layer of newspaper around the outside of the tin and tie it with string. This keeps the cake moist and prevent the outside from becoming too crispy during its time in the oven. It doesn’t need to be a thick layer but it is worth doing as it makes the cake much nicer. This works for any fruit cake, including Christmas cake.

Tropical Fruit Cake2 Tropical Fruit Cake
Tropical Fruit Cake
Tropical Fruit Cake2 Tropical Fruit Cake
A fruit cake with apricot and coconut to add a tropical taste
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
  1. 15og butter
  2. 150g dark brown sugar
  3. 3 eggs
  4. zest of 1 lemon
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 225g plain flour
  7. 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  8. 400g sultanas, currants and raisins
  9. 50g dried apricot
  10. 55g mixed peel
  11. 55g glacé cherries
  12. 50g dessicated coconut
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C, 300F,Gas 2
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy
  3. Fold in the flour and baking powder and mix in the eggs.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until the fruit is well distributed.
  5. Place in an 8 inch cake tin and flatten the mixture, adding a well in the centre so the top is level when cooked.
  6. Bake for 1 - 1½ hours until a skewer though the centre comes out clean.
Dragons and Fairy Dust
The cake was well received and we enjoyed it with a cup of tea, hot cross buns and Easter eggs.

9VwhltV Tropical Fruit Cake

Easter Adventures

As you may have noticed I have been a little quiet recently. I had a week off at Easter and decided to spend some time getting the house and garden sorted and being with the family. I also took the plunge and updated the operating system on my computer, which meant I had to remove and reinstall everything. It is all working again now but it meant I wasn’t able to do anything for a while.

As the weather was lovely we decided to take the dog for a long walk into the Rising Sun Country Park. There was a craft fair on in the visitor centre which we wanted to look around. It is a nice walk, past fields, dipping ponds and though woodland before we get to the visitor centre. On the way back we pass the swallow lake and pool in the quarry which is full of swans and geese. We also pass the Rising Sun Farm where we can buy vegetables. It takes a few hours to do the walk but in nice weather it is lovely and we stop to get drinks at the visitor centre. The craft fair was small but nice and we bought some gorgeous cup cakes to eat at home later.

On the walk back towards the farm we stopped to look at some horses and the deer who lives with them.

Rising Sun Easter AdventuresWhen his antlers are full grown he looks really impressive, I think he is just regrowing them at the moment. Apparently there is a bird hide on the other side of the lake but we have never managed to work out how to walk round to it. I did manage to zoom in on the lake with my camera, there are plenty of birds to look at.

Rising Sun2 Easter AdventuresWe walked round to the pond on the quarry to look at the swans. The last time we were there they nearly attacked us so we were very careful.

Rising Sun3 Easter AdventuresSuddenly a dog appeared and decided he was going to jump in the pond and chase the swans. We were a little bit worried that he might get attacked but the swans did not have any babies so were less aggressive. The dogs owners soon appeared and put him on his lead.
Rising Sun4 Easter Adventures
On our way home we also spotted a butterfly which I think might be a Peacock butterfly. I haven’t managed to see one of these before.
butterfly Easter Adventures
It was a lovely day out. A few days later we had a bit more excitement, I noticed on twitter that Wonga were doing a treasure hunt though Newcastle for Toon Balloons. In case you are not aware Toon is Geordie for town. The idea was that they would release clues on twitter and the first person to reach and find the balloon would win whatever prize was tied to the balloon. There were tickets to see Newcastle United, signed player photos, Newcastle United tops and the grand prize of an X-Box. My son and I went into town and waited for the clues. We started off near St James Park but the clues led us to Central Station and the Centre for Life and then down to the Quayside.
Toon Balloon2 Easter Adventures
We narrowly missed the balloon at the Millennium Bridge but were in position for the next clue which was for the Swing Bridge. We raced at great speed and managed to find one.
Andrew Easter Adventures

It was a fun way to spend an afternoon but it was more than a little exhausting racing at great speed around Newcastle chasing clues. It was obviously very popular as a lot of people were out looking. Those were some of our Easter Adventures, obviously we also had a lot of chocolate and a lovely dinner on the Sunday. What did you get up to over the holidays?

Rainbow Biscuits

It seems that Spring is definitely here. The days have been sunny and I have finally managed to get into the garden and remove a centuries worth of weeds and plant some seeds. I decided to make some biscuits in honour of the sunshine and had the idea of making colourful rainbow biscuits. The idea was to use food colouring to make biscuit dough in different colours then layer the dough in rainbow colours before cutting and baking. To remember the colours in the rainbow I always have to remember the phrase Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain which reminds me they are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. I skipped the Indigo when making the biscuits as I couldn’t find a light blue food colour, but I had all the other colours. Whilst baking I found myself singing “I can sing a rainbow” much to my sons disgust.

The idea was good but I used natural food colouring and the colours did not turn out as bright as I wanted. You could see the colour in the dough before baking but after cooking it went rather pale and pastel. Next time I will be more heavy handed with the food colouring and make sure the dough is really bright before baking. It was nothing a dip in melted chocolate and some rainbow sprinkles couldn’t sort out.

Rainbow Biscuits Rainbow BiscuitsWhilst not as colourful as I wanted I was pleased with the way the seperate layers in the biscuit worked and you could definitely see that there should be stripes. These are more like rainbows as the rain stops and it is fading gently away. The biscuits were much appreciated though and did not last very long.

Rainbow Biscuits2 Rainbow Biscuits
Rainbow Biscuits
Rainbow Biscuits2 Rainbow Biscuits
Yields 20
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  1. 200g (7oz) butter
  2. 150g (6oz) caster sugar
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  5. 400g (14oz) plain flour
  6. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple food colouring
  7. 100g milk chocolate
  8. Hundreds and thousands
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. Gradually add the flour and mix together to from a dough.
  4. Divide the dough into six equal parts and add a different food colour to each.
  5. Wrap each bit of dough in clingfilm and leave in the oven for 30 minutes to chill.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, Gas Mark4
  7. Take one of the chunks of dough and roll into a strip between two sheets of baking paper. It should be about 5mm thick
  8. Repeat this with the other bits of dough stacking the strips up in the correct colour order until you have a recectangle made of the stack of colours.
  9. Cut into strips to make even sized biscuits.
  10. Bake in the oven on a baking sheet with baking parchment on for 15-20 minutes.
  11. Leave to cool.
  12. When cooled melt the chocolate in a bowl over bowling water. Dip each biscuit into the chocolate and sprinkle with hundreds and thousands.
  13. Leave to set.
Dragons and Fairy Dust
recipe of the week Rainbow Biscuits