Summer Iced Tea With A Little Help From The Bees

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There is nothing more cooling on a warm summer day than a refreshing cup of tea. I love making homemade iced tea over the summer months, and it is the perfect time to experiment using exciting new tea flavours, with lots of added ice and fresh herbs from the garden.

Taylors of Harrogate tea have recently created the most adorable short film a ‘Grand Beedapest Hotel’ based on the modern classic The Grand Budapest Hotel. It follows the perfectly quirky and candy-colour style of Wes Anderson’s film to raise awareness of saving our bees. Without bees there would be no teas! You must watch it for the tiny bee-sized gin and tonics and a ‘cameo’ from Queen Bey!

My little ones, Mia and Joe, get so excited about anything bee-related! Last week they rescued a very dozy-looking bumble bee in our garden by giving him a little bit of sugar water to drink and popping him on our lavender plants. We all watched him sit there for some time, taking a short rest, and then quite suddenly he buzzed away looking much happier. They were so delighted with their bee-saving adventure and have been excitedly telling all of our friends and family about it since!

It is so scary to think about a future, their future, possibly without bees, when they help to pollinate 75% of the world’s crops. Bees really are essential to almost everthing we eat, and their numbers have dropped rapidly in the last 25 years, by around half.

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Taylors teas are working with Kew Gardens to encourage everyone to make their homes and gardens a little bit more bee-friendly. Taylors have lots of great practical ideas on their site and at the Grow Wild project led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. There is also a chance to win tickets to Kew Gardens too. Taylors very kindly sent us our very own bee hotel, along with a lovely packet of wildflower seeds, much loved by bees. We already have some plants and flowers growing in our garden which are favourites with the bees, including buddleia and a bed of lavender, and it’s great to see them buzzing with stripey bees in the sunshine, busily working away to pollinate our plants.

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So to celebrate the bees incredibly clever pollination skills we have been making some lovely icy summer teas, made with Taylors delicious teas.

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My favourite flavour is the Rose Lemonade infusion, which includes lemon, blackberry and apple – it is so refreshing hot or cold! I also love the Sweet Rhubarb and Lemongrass and Ginger flavours. The range also includes Spiced Apple, which I think will be amazing for the autumn, and includes my favouite warming spice, cardamom.

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Our iced tea was made with the Rose Lemonade, infused in boiling water for 5 minutes, cooled and with ice cubes added. We had also frozen some fresh mint leaves into the ice cubes for its lovely taste…and of course extra prettiness!

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Once the tea flavours had infused, we added some colourful garden herbs, borage and calendula. Borage tastes a little bit like cucumber and works so well in drinks! Mia was so excited to try some of our tea, and was able to enjoy this with us, as Taylors fruit teas are naturally caffeine free, so totally safe for her to drink. It makes such a delicious drink, you really have to try it!

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Mia and Joe have been really inspired to plant our wildflower seeds outdoors and are keen to dedicate a whole area of our garden to bee-friendly flowers. I’m totally in agreement and we are already making plans for next Spring!

Do you have any plants in your garden which the bees really love? I fancy lots of sprawling purple verbena, but would love more ideas!

Are you also feeling inspired to do more for our little bee friends having watched the Grand ‘Beedapest’ Hotel video?

 

We were sent a Bee Hamper from Taylors of Harrogate for review purposes. All words and opinions given are my own.

 

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How to give your shed a fresh and exciting makeover

Shed makeoover before 1

I often start thinking about DIY projects at the start of summer. The longer days and brighter evenings allow a little more time to plan and complete jobs that have probably been waiting all winter! The bright sunlight also has a way of showing up old paintwork, or cobwebs, and so the motivation to get it sorted kicks in. In our house, I am the main DIY-er, quite happily give most decorating work a go, and have an ongoing project list. On my to do list for this summer was a makeover for the allotment shed, which we inherited from the previous plot holder and was in a pretty awful state considering its only a few years old!

Over the winter the roofing felt had started to come off, and the roof was leaking slightly, there was a hole at the back of the shed which needed fixing and having never been painted, it needed a serious freshen up. Having spent many hours browsing Pinterest I had dreams of a shed that could be beautiful as well as useful!

So, here are the before pictures of the shed:

Shed makeover before

You can see that I have already changed the roofing felt here. The was the first stage of the makeover, as it was most urgent, to stop the rain leaking through into the shed. Once watertight again, I could focus on making it look gorgeous.

I chose to paint the shed for two reasons, firstly to add a pop of colour and revamp the plain wooden appearance, and secondly to preserve the wood and protect it from the weather. I chose a special shed paint which will protect it for several years before a top up coat will be needed. I used Homebase’s Home of Colour, Garden Colour in Pure Duck Egg. Before painting I cleaned and dusted the shed exterior and nailed back one of the wooden planks at the back of the shed that had come loose. The paint went on really well, and I gave the whole shed two coats, allowing a day or so to dry in between coats.

Shed makeover during

I love the colour, it’s really gentle and not too bright againt the natural landscape of the allotment. Just cheerful enough to add a splash of colour. It looks lovely and makes smile now everytime I walk through the allotments towards our plot.

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A bumble bee resting on the newly painted shed door in between coats of colour (it was dry, don’t worry). I waited for him to fly away before even moving the shed door, and Mia and I just sat and admired his tiny antennae and intricate wings.

Having completed the more practical aspects of the makeover, the roof and the painting, I then moved onto adding some accessories, to make it look fresh and summery.

Shed makeover progress

I made a blackboard to hang on the shed door, so that I can keep track of each month’s allotment jobs (or, more likely… Mia and Joe will use it for doodling whilst I garden!). I used an offcut of wood, cut to fit the shed door, and Rust-Oleum Chalk Board paint in black. Having painted the wood with 3 coats of the chalk board paint and let it dry, I covered the whole board in chalk and then rubbed in the chalk dust a little, so it would be easier to write on, and less shiny. I fixed it to the shed door with some natural jute twine at the back, and small tack hammered into the door.

I also added a wicker planter to the front of the shed and filled this with English lavender. The colour of the lavender is a lovely contrast with the duck egg blue, and it also smells great each time I open the shed door and brush against it. Another bonus is that it attracts more bees to the allotment!

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The final stage of the makeover was to add an awning, or shade sail, to the front of the shed. There is very little natural shade at the allotment, particularly on our plot, and we needed somewhere shady to sit on hot summer days. This provides the perfect solution, and can easily be taken down for storage over the winter, or in wet weather.

I made the shade sail from a thick hessian type fabric, sourced from eBay, and love it’s red and white deckchair stipes. It works really well with our vintage stripey deckchairs Ted & Vera*.  I plan to put together a more detailed post on how I made the shade sail, with full step by step photos. To summarise though, I hemmed the edges of the fabric, added eyelets to each corner and looped through some rustic nautical rope. I then attached the rope from the top eyelets to two nails I had hammered into the shed roof. The eyelets of the front of the awning attach to garden canes and two guy ropes (made of the same rope) which fix into the ground with tent pegs. It works really well, and takes less than five minutes to take up and down. Perfect for a little bit of allotment downtime safely out of the sun!

— I have now added a DIY shade sail tutorial here

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And here is a side view of the completed shed, with shade sail up. You can just about see the not-so-photogenic water tank, which sits next to the shed! The extended makeover plan for the end of the summer, includes moving the water tank to make room for a play kitchen area for Mia and Joe.

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The very scenic view from my newly made-over shed! My allotment neighbour’s chickens, they are lovely and incredibly chatty.

*The deckchairs are named Ted and Vera becase this is written underneath the wooden arms of both! I imagine they have had a happy history on a 1960s campsite somewhere before they came (via a junk shop) to live in our shed!

My shed makeover was sponsored by Ocean loans, as part of their project to celebrate our outdoor spaces now that the warmer weather is here!

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