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97 - Glorious Gorse

Thursday, April 19, 2018



It has felt like the longest of winters this year. Trees stripped bare for what seems like an eternity, the moors turned to that golden brown that signifies a lack of anything much going on for an epic amount of time (I'm talking fairytale princess nap length of time). The first signs of new growth and spring, even just a flicker of that squishy kind of fresh green, feel like oxygen to my soul.



When we were walking recently we stumbled upon an area covered in gorse. All those yellow flowers felt like an explosion of life, the beginnings of a Jackson Pollock on a blank canvas. I've since found that it flowers all year round (particularly prevalent from around January to June in the most common variety) but I'm not going to let that spoil my delight.



Seeing the abundance of flowers turned my thought to picking and preserving (have you clapped eyes on DO Preserve yet? It's full of simple but good recipes, we use ours A LOT - you can buy it here) and I remembered having seen a recipe for gorse cordial some time last year. I didn't pick any flowers to try it out this time as we were away from home for a few days and I didn't think the flowers would keep but here is that recipe, both for safe keeping for me and for you to have a go...



Ingredients

As many gorse petals as you can pick! Ideally, at least a litre jugful.

Water

Sugar

Juice & zest of two oranges

Method

Pick the gorse flowers on a dry sunny day, ideally when you can smell the coconut fragrance as this will give a more flavoursome cordial.

Put the blossoms in a pan and cover with boiling water. You want to add just enough water to submerge the flowers. Leave to steep overnight.

Strain through a jelly bag or piece of muslin. Add the zest and juice from the oranges.

Measure out the liquid and pour back into the pan.

Add 700g of sugar per litre of liquid and heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Pour into hot sterilised bottles if you want to keep it for a few months, otherwise bottle into clean containers and keep in the fridge.

Recipe found at the Fforest site here. A side note - I found a different recipe that substituted one of the oranges for a lemon, perhaps give both versions a go.



We'll be trying it out as soon as we can. We'd love to see the results of your efforts, you can post on our new community board here or tag us on social media (@alfiesstudio).

Heres to many months of happy foraging, finding and preserving and hoping the birds don't eat everything in our strawberry patch this year!



96 - How to shop better

Friday, March 23, 2018

Alfie's Studio Enjoy the Little Things Card on Display


At the beginning of 2016, we discovered the amazing air-cleansing power of plants and wanted to share our new-found love and knowledge with everyone - our 'Outdoors-In' project was born. To do this we needed a shop space. Miraculously that very same week a small retail space previously used as an office became available on our village high street. Without any experience of shopkeeping but a lot of enthusiasm, we jumped at the chance and signed up.

View looking Out of Alfie's Studio Shop

Two years later, much wiser, and more than slightly sadly, we're saying goodbye to our little shop to give us more time with our small people, while they still want to spend time with us. We'll continue with our online store and plan to grow the space and use it to converse with you lovely folk, to bring you all the goodness you've come to expect from your offline shopping experiences with us.

Some things I've learned along the way:

We should all be thankful to and support our independent retailers as much as possible. Keeping a shop, even a small one, is hard. If done properly, every product has been considered, researched, sourced and the price point agonised over. Bills are dreaded and tax return deadlines loom over like a hidden monster under the bed. Every time anyone walked through my door, I was thankful. Even if they didn’t purchase something, that was their time and consideration, affirming my belief that we had found the best possible products to offer.

Selection of Curated Makers Products in Alfie's Studio Shop

We should question our purchases. If the shop owner / sales assistant doesn’t know the in’s and out’s of what they are selling, you shouldn’t buy it. If there isn’t a good reason why they are offering it to you, beyond the fact that they saw it in a generic catalogue and had a space to fill, do you really need it? If they can’t tell you where, how and with what it was made, can you trust it? We’re working hard with our suppliers to provide more transparent information, but we can, and will, tell you everything we know if you ask.

Curated Makers Candles and Plants in Alfie's Studio Shop

People are, without a doubt, wonderful. We had some regulars, some occasional visitors and some who only popped in once, but pretty much every person gave something to me. A gift of knowledge. A kind word. One fabulous gent popped in one day, got talking and popped back the day after to present me with the most beautiful Jade Plant which I love. I was told once that it took some confidence to come into such a small shop and I was dismayed at first but realised that it was because we are so isolated with our general shopping experience that we don’t feel comfortable having to talk to each other. That’s sad. Once we had nine people in our little space – it was like shuffle twister, but very good natured.

One last thing I will miss are those who live their lives offline. A surprising number of people have commented that they don’t shop online, don’t have smart phones and are generally wary of giving their personal details to a faceless machine. And not just the older generations. These are our people but I have no idea how to stay connected without our shop yet I don’t want to lose them. We’ll be doing markets and pop-up shops so I hope we’ll meet them on our way as I think they should be respected and encouraged.

So, farewell little shop, thank you for growing with me - I will miss you dearly. Whatever winds up behind your window, I shall look in and see our little oasis of plants and inquisitive, friendly folk.

Thank you all for joining in our journey so far. Here's to the next chapter together!

95 - The Legend of Abbey Brook

Wednesday, May 24, 2017



Back in that odd little seasonal hinterland that lies somewhere after Christmas but before spring sets in, we left the children with the grandparents for the afternoon and escaped for a quiet drive down through the peaks (and through the amazing Chatsworth estate - serious heart eyes for that) to Abbey Brook.

Unassumingly nestled at the bottom of Brian and Gill Fearn's garden, a pared back but nonetheless wondrous version of its former self (having once had many more operational cactus houses before being scaled back to wind down a little). A small but perfectly formed cactus lovers dream, and surely the most photographed nursery north of the M25.



My jaw visibly dropped as we pulled back the door to the specimen house and I could honestly spend all day there taking everything in. Even their "mess", cast offs once deemed unfit for purpose and abandoned under the tables, are thriving in their own beautiful way. It was our good fortune to get to speak to Gill who set us straight on a thing or two about lithops and told us a little of the story of Abbey Brook as she showed us around.











We were most excited to get to see the propagation house as it isn't open to the public in general and Gill clued us in on a few things we could be doing to grow our own for the shop too. She has amassed knowledge over the years and her travels that I could only dream of, it was the most beautiful thing to see two people with a business that is literally part of the fabric of their being. The photos don't do it justice but have a look anyway.






We now stock a few select specimen plants from Abbey Brook - currently only in store but we are considering having a Plant Market Monday on Instagram stories to enable you to see what we have in stock and order. Get in touch if this is something that would be of interest to you and we'll keep you posted. You can see the rest of our Outdoors In range here.

94 - NEWS



Well, we've been busy lately. Busier than the busiest of bees on a hot summer day with directions to a freshly blooming patch of lavender.

I have ceased being a one woman show and finally given in to the fact that I can't do it all, no matter how much I might want to for feelings of ownership or pride or whatever else has been at play when I've frequently refused help on this enterprise that is growing every day. Since we opened the shop almost a year ago (which I fully appreciate I still haven't posted about...) I've been steadily letting go of some responsibilities. That's not to say I'm lounging by a pool daily, reading books and drinking cocktails watching my bank balance increase whilst someone else does The Work (tho that would be awesome - for a week until I got bored and wanted in on the action again). I am learning limitations. Passing off the stuff I'm not great at to be able to focus on the things I'm awesome with. We still aren't completely there just yet. We are, as they say, a work in progress.

If you have ventured into the shop you will have more than likely dealt with the man of the house. He's far better at people you see and isn't socially awkward like I fear I am when not being my online self. He's also very chatty and not easily flustered. Shop = his thing. Contemplative attention to detail, love of typography that works as well as it should and bringing a concept to life, that is what I do best.

There's a point to this, I promise...

One of the changes that has come about as a result of all of this, is this lovely blog space here. It will, from today and forever more, be the blog space of Alfie's Studio. New products, fresh designs, makers stories, environmental goodness and all such related articles. In view that Alfie's Studio is no longer my personal brand but has grown into a thing all of it's own, I'm giving it space. I'm now going to be blogging over at adventuresingreyandgreen.com - I hope you'll join me there. N.

NOTE: The new layout looks a little funny at times with posts that don't have an image. We're unsure yet whether to go back to each and every one and add an image or to leave it as it is. Either way, we apologise for any bits that look anything less than awesome.

93 - Music (re)discovery

Friday, March 03, 2017

I've had it in my mind to do all sorts of posts lately and with half term and other fun have been strapped for time. I feel like I just can't ignore this though and want to try to share my music discoveries and re-discoveries more often.

First post of its kind on this blog, here we go...

The first one seems like an odd one - it's from Moana which I saw with the littles during half term (already offed Frozen from the top spot - poor Frozen) and I've actually liked the artist for a good while under a different guise. Any of you seen Moana? If you have you'll probably know the track that I have in mind and just can't get out of my head.... Super catchy and uber singable "Shiny" (the sign of a great Disney movie is songs that you can't get out of your head even tho you are grown up, no?)


You may or may not already have realised that it is the same voice behind "Nigel" in the movie Rio and perhaps completely unaware that the voice in question is in fact Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame, who I found via recommendation of the voice that comes up the kitchen stairs every now and then when The House Elf has found something good I should listen to*...


"Bowie" is one of my favourites of theirs. I'd also recommend a little "back story" or prequel piece (for want of a better phrase) that Flight of the Conchords did to the Bowie song (if you liked it) which you can find here.

Secondly, a re-discovery off the back of a Lauren Laverne tweet... Sebadoh. I loved them in my teenage years and have an iffy recording of "Flame" on a tape somewhere from a Steve Lamaq evening session (remember those? tapes AND The Evening Sessions are in the archives of your mind somewhere) and am so happy to re-discover them - check them out here.

So there we have it. Two fairly polar opposites but equally awesome in their own rights. Please do share any discoveries or re-discoveries with me, I always love finding new music.

*The house elf in question being the long suffering Mr who washes up of an evening whilst I tidy up the days work. I know, he's a keeper.

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