Hey readers, I know it has been a super long time since my last post. I have been adjusting to life in the real world now that I have a job and not as much free time anymore but I feel like I am about to get back into the swing of things. Makers meadow is attending a craft fair this Saturday 21st and I invite you to come join us for a peruse and a shop if you can make it to sheffield. There will be lots of other craft stalls from independent creators throughout sheffield and I am really looking forward to it. Stop off and say hi if your come by.
I am really enjoying keeping a wishlist on a regular basis. There are so many things that I would love to have but can’t ( just yet) normally because of lack of funds and then there are also items I want which I want to get to replace something I already have ( but obviously I wouldn’t throw something away before it needed to be, that would be wasteful) I find it great to have an idealistic wishlist as it allows me to think about what I really need, what I really want and what I really can live without. As always all these items come from an ethical back ground that I support whether eco friendly, from an independent business or fairly traded. Number 1 is a bit of a cheat as I have just bought it, It’s a blusher from BM Beauty that uses all natural ingredients. I don’t use a lot of make up so I think it’s pretty reasonable that I could slowly replace all my make up and I would be happy to with BM Beauty as I’ve found the blusher amazing. I have started to gain some temp work through an agency and would like to have some neater tops and jewellery for interviews and work plus I would like a backpack that’s good lucking but can fit more in it then my handbag so I can shop while out an about (bonus points for not using plastic bags) I would love this horseradish vodka from Godminster as I really enjoy a good bloody mary and want to make some really tasty spicey ones for friends and family the morning after the night before. Lastly I would love this piece of art
This Friday a new restaurant/bar is opening in Oxford, Jacob’s Chop House. A new venture for the owners of Jacobs Inn and Jacob & field’s Deli, both in Oxford and both successful small businesses. By the looks of the food and drinks on offer the Chop House is set to be a tasty success as well. I would love the opportunity to go down for the opening and try some tasty meats but alas a trip to Oxford is not on the books at the moment :( Since this isn’t a review post the reason I would like to share with you this particular place is that the co-owner Johnny commissioned me to make the aprons for all the staff starting there this week. For me this was a really special moment to do my first custom order other then for friends and family and was able to get my products in a public arena. Although I am very proud, this isn’t a post about blowing my own trumpet, I wanted to share the order with you as I think It is a really important step for my business, their business and the implications it has for all independent businesses.
I believe strongly in the power of small business over huge corporations and love the fact that with the purchase of my aprons, two businesses have cut these huge multi nationals out of the loop. This has allowed one independent maker (i.e. Me) to produce an ethical product and service for another independent business (i.e. Jacob’s). For the handmade and independent business movement it is our ability to stand alone in the economy without major funding and questionable policies that will see more small companies thrive and more people gain a job, that is both worthwhile and pays well. Supporting each other is just as important as promoting your own products and services because the more consumers who shop in a more conscious way the more space there is for the little guy or gal to succeed.
For small businesses it’s all about being seen. Why would I not want to promote another independent business. The Chop House are offering grilled British meats, fish and veggies with some tasty beers and wines to wash it all down. Though I’ve not been, their pub offers meats that are reared on site and their own homemade chorizo and their deli provides local and seasonal fresh produce all year round. What is not to like! I wish the team all the best of look in the future and look forward to when I can finally make it to oxford and sample their wares myself.
And remember, support your local independent businesses where ever you are
p.s. Photos courtesy of Jacob’s Chop House restaurant
When I talk to people about independent and ethical shopping I often find it can be bizarre ground for a lot of shoppers as we all get use to shopping in a certain way and by nature we don’t like change. For me one of the biggest problems I find is that independent shops don’t label prices consistently or visibly enough and items aren’t always laid out how you would normally find them in your bog standard supermarket or on their website. For more people to be encouraged to shop with the little guys or the eco conscious these retailers need to make it easy for others to transition. A perfect example of this is the ethicalsuperstore.com
The online retailer specialises in a whole range of products from clothes to food, gardening to beauty all items of which are either fairly traded, organic, eco friendly, promote health and wellness, educational, locally produced or charitable. These are all worthy causes that I care about so it makes the perfect place for me to find exactly what I want without failing my principles. Each item page has a thorough description of the ethics behind its production or company, each of which you can find out more about on its own page and browse its other products. The clear layout of each page means you can find out the relevant info you might want and see customers reviews at the same time to inform you on its positives and negatives.
I love that the ethical superstore is set up just like a supermarket website as it is really easy to navigate and more often then not they will have the products your looking for as they have such an extensive range of items. They display prices visibly and even offer bulk buying discounts on most of their food products. They also have offers and sales just like any other store as well as their clearance sections for homewares and clothing making the shopping experience exactly the same as you would find it in any big box store except you can rely on the products being ethically sourced. My only criticism might be that I wish the free delivery order didn’t have to be as much as £50 but that is because I like a bargain. I think this is definitely the way ethical retailers should go to encourage more people to look at their wonderful products and get them to make the switch.
I am very pleased to announce that my bottle carriers are now being sold in the wonderful shop that is Bier Huis- World of Beer in the town of Ossett, West Yorkshire. It is the perfect outlet for the product because not only do they sell lashings of brilliant bottled beer, they stock Geeves Brewery Bottles which is the brewery where I get the malt sacks to make these wonderful upcycled creations. Obviously I am super proud to be stocked in a bricks and mortar shop but I want to tell you about what a wonderful place it is too as a local independent shop.
Beer, as you can imagine, is everything to David Jones the owner of Bier Huis and this comes through in the top selection of bottled ales there is on offer. You won’t find big brands here but local, small and often rare brews that all taste brilliant. The shop is stocked to the rafters with bottles and makes it feel like a library for the real ale aficionado. You could spend a decent hour perusing the aisles before settling on a bottle or ten for that matter, and i’m sure if you didn’t know where to start Dave would lend you a hand and find you the perfect tipple. There are also plenty from further a field with a hefty selection of world beers to try all with unique styles and tastes. I’ts not all beer though, cider makes a top appearance too especially since it is hard to find real bottle cider that’s not made by big bad Weston’s.
Compared to your regular off license the selection is marvellous and this is true also in the food that is surprisingly sold here too. You’d normally find a few bags of crisps, nuts and maybe even popcorn, in a shop devoted to alcohol but Bier Huis goes much further with local chutneys, mustards, sauces, even some Yorkshire made chorizo … drool! and of course handmade crisps. There is also gifts for sale including beer packages and glasses, brilliant for when you’ve forgot a beer lovers birthday. Its great to see a small shop doing so well and that is no doubt down to picking top quality products and what better job to have then having to quality control beer. If you like your real ales this is the place to go for a good mix and some cracking tastes.
Enjoy the sun this week while you can
We are all aware in one way or another that the economic recession has impacted almost every one whether a little bit or drastically. I see it every day and most people i know are struggling in some way. The Guardian Newspaper have been running a series about austerity Britain called Breadline Britain and they have recently highlighted within the series the impact of the recession on the British public’s diet. Unemployment/ no comparable wage rise coupled with increased living costs means that people need to cut back, however it has gone so far down the line that it is no longer just the ‘luxuries’ we are cutting out but the essentials as well. The Joseph Rowntree Trust reported that food prices have risen by 32% in the last 5 years, 12% in only the last year with spending staying relatively the same but increasingly less and less spent on fresh meat, vegetables and fruit. Furthermore the biggest and ‘best’ deals are on cheap, poor quality, processed foods which doesn’t make it a contest when as one women from the Breadline series put it ‘When four bars of Chocolate are £1, you end up on junk’
I feel i am very lucky when it comes to providing myself and family with thrifty but nutrition food because i can cook relatively well, have slowly collected herbs and spices which always come in handy for livening up a dish and i use my noggin and buy smart without sacrificing on nutrition. So i have compiled a short list of essentials which i personally spend on and scrimp on to show you where you can save on the pennies and spend your pounds on what maybe be a bit pricey but needed. Though this won’t be THE list for everyone depending on what and where you buy and it may not be the most ethical food, but i think for the majority of people who shop at supermarkets and are on an increasingly tight budget this could really help when it comes to the weekly shop.
I always buy the 33p value plum tomatoes because they simply don’t taste any different and you are most of the time putting them into a sauce or stew so they are mingling with other flavours. I get plum tomatoes because they give you more fruit in them and they are often about 2p cheaper then chopped tomatoes
Now many people are simply brand snobs when it comes to canned stuff but for value beans i have found they taste just as nice but tend to have less sugar and salt in. If you need a tomatoeyer hit just squirt in a half a tablespoon of ketchup which works out so much cheaper then buying the big named brands, i.e. Heinz
I am a massive Cheese fan and do not like to scrimp on the good stuff but for some recipes you can. You can get the cheapest cheddar cheese and use it for cheese sauces and toasties and it adds just as much flavour as it is heated up and you can add other flavours in to it. If eating on crackers though, that is when you want the good stuff .
Spreads and fillings
It can be hit and miss but some value brands have equally delicious products but some are also horrific. Test out a jar of own brand ‘Insert name’ and see what the difference is you might be surprised how delicious it is but equally if it turns out it tastes like horse muck then you have wasted alot less. Don’t be put off by the cheap looking packing all the time.
Value veg and fruit
Once again the packing makes you believe it is of a poorer quality because it is technically ‘Class II’ rather then Class I. The only thing this means is that the peppers in packet numero 2 are little bit funkier looking then packet number 1. See this post for why that shouldn’t and doesn’t matter. The same goes for canned veg as long as its not in brine (too much salt) or fruit which is in juice rather then syrup (too much sugar)
Firstly, there is more to bacon then just a butty in the morning or a workmens lunch, bacon can be added to so many dishes just to give a little extra meaty depth without having to chuck a whole animal into your meal every night. More importantly though is that you shouldn’t scrimp on it because i have never ever bought cheap/average priced bacon and NOT found it to ave shrunk by at least a half under the grill. Its a mugs game cheap bacon and if you choose to spend just a little more you can get a quality product which will give you the weight in meat that you paid for.
Just like bacon you can make a substantial meal out of a packet of sausages but don’t sacrifice health or taste pleasure for some overtly pink, E-number ridden cheap banger. Use your noodle and find the best quality ones, you will be pleased for it. Better still get to your local butcher.
Though there are value brands out there that have good pasta, can’t hurt your pocket too much to check, i have often found that the medium or top brands yield the best results. They are less likely to stick to the pan, don’t take as long to cook and overall taste so much better.
If you’ve seen this post you’ll know why but briefly: Cheap, mass produced bread is pretty much what is killing Britain, readily available and value for money people are shoveling mountains of the stuff into their gobs each day to keep full. Eat less and spend a little bit more on a local, good quality, real baker and you will reap the benefits later on and so will your purse.
Has the recession affected your diet? what are your tips for eating healthy but at a price you can afford?
Today’s folksy Friday is inspired by the countdown to Christmas and that the best way to get all the gifts ready is through being the early bird and catching the worms/gifts early. I have also recently bought a few things off folksy for family and myself and just love the feeling of shopping on folksy and receiving items through the post. The sellers are always friendly with great customer service and best of all its all handmade made by some one you can actually talk to. You can connect with the maker more then just knowing something is ‘made in china’, there is a story behind every product and it reconnects you to the items you buy and how they are made. So the message of the story: Get in early, buy those presents, buy handmade this Christmas and support a local small time producer.
My pick of the week is the two little love birds in the bottom corner both made of organic merino wool, they make perfectly cute cake toppings, if only the little ceramic bunting saying love was included. Beautiful work from the Felt Menagerie. I adore the robin print from InkMeUp , a lovely simple design but would make me feel so cheery with this hanging up on my wall. Last but not least i would love a sweet little bird box for the garden like this classic one from Wudwerx. To find all these beautiful creations check out my pinterest Folksy Friday:The early Bird
Enjoy your weekend and my Folksy Finds, while your having a gander dont forget to check out my Folksy shop Maker’s Meadow where every order in November gets a free prize
Todays folksy Friday is showing the best of the best of chalk and cheese. As of last weeks if you don’t know what folksy is then you should check it out especially as Christmas is coming up and its great for handmade and individual presents. Many designers also do custom products so you can personalise it for your friends and family. I would definitely love to give the seed labels from Love Imagining to my gardener father and the slate cheese board from Grey & Echo as he loves his cheeses as well. My ultimate favourite this week is the Say Cheese lino print card from Hand Made
So anything here take your fancy? And how familiar are you with the amazing folksy? Check all of them out at my pinterest board Folksy Friday: Chalk & Cheese
Have a great day
Who doesn’t love a slab of bread and butter with their fish or toast with jam. It is another staple of our lives and yet when we pick up a loaf from the shelf do we really know whats gone into it or who makes? There is currently no legislation which forces manufacturers or bakers to include all the ingredients in their breads but whats the problem with that? its only flour and water right???? Myself and the Real Bread Campaign know somethings wrong. You can not make an informed choice if you don’t know what the facts are and similarly you cannot decide whether the bread you buy is right for you and your family if you don’t know what goes in to it or where it came from. The basic ingredients for bread are and should be: Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast. Since there is no legal requirement, as yet, to label any extras or additives in the bread it could contain ANYTHING!!!!!! But more likely your regular supermarket breads will contain these little beasties:
E300 L-Ascorbic acid, E926 Chlorine dioxide, Flour bleaching agents, Flour treatment agents, Enzyme preparations, Added fats, Chemical sprays, Added Sugar, Excessive Salt
Now who really wants that when its not needed. Further more the majority of our loaves are loaves are made by a hand full of companies in factories (80%) and Supermarkets (15%-17%) removing the social and physical baker of our communities. As there is only a handle of national producers, they supply bread all over the country using lorrys which travel for hundreds of miles.
So whats the problem?
1. Artificial additives and processing agents are bad for your health and its not helped by added fats and yeast.
2. Local bakeries use to be at the center of our communities (along with the pub) and we no longer have a large occupation of bakers but machines making our bread. Not only are bread sales the profit of a few shareholders but local bakeries have disappeared along with jobs.
3. As national distributors, bread factories create excessive amounts of carbon dioxide through diesel lorries where as baked in the shop have transport costs only for ingredients, less if they get their ingredients locally.
Who is to blame?
1. It seems almost silly to say but there is a massive monopoly on Bread. When you look at supermarket bread sales it is made up of the supermarkets own brand, Hovis, Warburtons and Kingsmill. These massive companies have the money to advertise and market their products to the masses and convince them that it is a wholesome healthy product even when its not. They should have responsiblity in providing the right info to their consumers.
2. Supermarkets do not display the extra ingredients of bread either but they also use false advertising such as ‘baked in store’ ‘oven fires’ when most of their products are pre baked and then ‘warmed up in store’ . They too do not need to label what goes in to their breads, though recent legislation says they must state the weight now. Bravo!
3. The government has not brought in legislation to force bread manufacturers to explain what has been added to their products. This is a massive flaw in the legal system for the food industry. The majority of products have to have what is exactly in it, so why not bread?!
What can I do?
1. Only have bread that is made of Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast plus natural extras for flavour like herbs and cheese. Gotta love abit of Foccacio.
2.The first thing you can do is stop buying those loaves from the supermarkets! Unless they are selling them for 12p because of a stupid sell by date then you may as well pick them up as they’ll only get chucked out any way.
3. Join the real bread campaign and help lobby the government into acting now rather then waiting for an eu resolution.
4.Buy from your local bakery that you know produces their breads on site. You can check on this map for where you can get real bread
5. Better still start making your own bread and bakes. Its easier then you might think and you can be safe in the knowledge you know exactly what is in your loaf.
Though there is no labeling laws for bread at the moment, the European union is currently in the process of legislation which will force producers to display their extra ingredients. I love to make my own bread but i admit that at the moment our local co-op always has bread for 12p that would be chucked away if we didnt buy it. its almost rude not to at that cheap.
Do you bake your own bread? What do you think about lack of labeling legislation?
This is a new featurette on my and my friends’ favourite local and independent shops, eateries, pubs and bars. I really support small independent businesses and think that they provide the best products, best customer service and the best experience. I would choose the smaller guy over all big company stores, however the main problem as is for most people is money; giant companies have a buying power that goes with their size and can reduce their prices to an artificial low compared to the little guy next door. I believe in a micro-economy where the economy is made up of lots and lots of small businesses and chain stores or bars are limited to only so many outlets. If there are more independent stores and more people shop with them, then prices will improve, you’ll recieve better customer service and you will be supporting the owners, their workers and their famillies. To kick it off, I am looking into what is now my new favourite bar in Leeds city centre, Friends of Ham.
Me and my partner had a great weekend away in Leeds to celebrate a few friends’ birthdays and was informed by a regular at our old local about a new bar in town with a good range of beer. We love real ale so we wandered down the next night to investigate. Situated a few minutes walk from the railway station, the bar is in a small shop front with stairs at the back descending to a large seating area with tables, chairs and comfy sofas to lounge on. Friends of Ham has only been open for 6 weeks but its already got so much right as a business.
The bar area, decked out in pale wood with matching stools, is plain and simple. It has 3 hand pull ales and 6 beer fonts, that change on a regular basis, and a large fridge stocked with a great array of bottled beers mainly from Britain, U.S.A and Belgium amongst others. The list of wine is small but each is individually choosen for its flavour and they even feature a white and sparkling wine from a Leeds vineyard just miles away. Will have to try some next time I’m there. A few ciders complete the selection along with some specialist port. As with most craft beer bars, the drinks tend to be high priced but you pay for a quality product, great environment and normally a high ABV. The selection at Ham is definately quality over quantity
All the draught drinks were served in 1/3, 2/3, halfs or pints for lower percentage, and thankfully reminds you that you are drinking an 8% beer. As for our favourites, I drank Delerium Red, a Belgium cherry beer at 8.4% and Bristol Beer Factory’s, Milk Stout 4.5%. My partner started on Magic Rock, Canonball, a double I.P.A at 7.4%, he followed with another I.P.A by Oregon based brewery, Rogue Ales, named Brutal I.P.A at 6%. The Drinks were great but what really left a delicious impact was the small but perfectly formed food menu. Choose from plates of specialist Cheeses from Britain, France and Spain and/or, you guessed it, Hams and Beef. The Charcuterie Hams are from Britain, Spain or Italy, and are all flavoured with unique mixes of herbs and spices, and are matured from weeks to even years. Most indivdual plates are priced from £4.50 to £6.5o but we shared a two meat + two cheese plate for £13.50, the must thing to do while there to try some of their selection. A mix of snacks and nibbles adds to the experience and all the food can be bought as takeaway too. If I had to choose one meat and one cheese again, I loved the Lardo and the Monte Enebro. Nom Nom!
Not only was the food brilliant, the staff all seemed geniunely nice too. All friendly and knowledgeable about their products and services, I could not fault them if I tried. Having walked past a Yates’ at the top of the street with a brawl falling out of the front door on a saturday night, we were pleased to find Friends of Ham with a busy but relaxed atmosphere and not noisy at all, perfect for conversation. Even though I liked its quiet relaxed ambience, I could not keep this gem to myself. We will definately be going back to try the pricey but intriguing 4 year matured acorn fed ham, Senorio Iberico Bellota, and as they told us, ‘A friend of ham is a friend of ours’.
So go make friends with them and check them out at https://www.facebook.com/friendsofham